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August 26, 2008

Embracing the Suck, Again « Stuff Important to Me »

Okay, I think we're back to pretty good again. I'm getting a little bit more mature, and I definitely understand her much more, and understand where she's coming from much more, and that makes it much easier for me to ignore the b.s. and savor the good stuff/times.

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posted by Nathan on 08:36 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

July 15, 2008

Gender Wars: When Men Don't Marry « Stuff Important to Me »

The big elephant I do not remember anyone else mentioning is this:

All women believe they deserve love and devotion within a marriagebut they dont think every man does.

It is often said that a 35+ year-old female gets desperate because all of the good ones have been taken. I do not see women truly looking at themselves and thinking: Im not married because all of the good women were chosen first. Im a reject. Im a leftover.

What, exactly, is a good one when it comes to husband, after all?

Obviously, it isnt the quality of a mans love and/or devotion, or there wouldnt be so many men rejected out-of-hand. I wish I had realized this two marriages ago.

I wonder if it has anything to do with money?

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posted by Nathan on 04:35 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

July 14, 2008

Bagged and Tagged « Stuff Important to Me »

In this episode of Ask Dr. Helen, Dr. Helen responds to a guy asking about long-term bachelor-hood by saying that 10% of the population simply should never be married.

After many years of painful experience, Ive finally decided (realized?) that probably Im one of them.

Im excellent at attracting women, but lousy at keeping them.

But Im already in a marriage. To a wife who is deeply unhappy in our life, and deeply dissatisfied with me as a husband. I am willing and eager to change myself to help create an environment that will be more conducive to happiness, but I apparently have significant shortcomings that I am unable to overcome. And in retrospect, it is these same shortcomings that have contributed to the failure of every romantic relationship Ive had.

now, it is just barely possible that Ive merely found the wrong women.

But I find that to be increasingly unlikely, the more I understand women.

I am weak in a relationship, passive. I dont want to offend or be overbearing, but have gone too far in the other direction. Im a nice guy, and try hard, but women cannot respect a doormat. And yet, a doormat I am, and a doormat I shall probably always be. As best as I can tell, it comes from:

1) A deliberate, conscious attempt to eliminate the negatives of a typical male (callousness, infidelity, tendency to use violence to express anger)

2) A mother who was unable to control her anger, leaving me terrified of female rage

3) A mother who was unable to control her anger, which has resulted in my inability to establish proper boundaries of self and self-respect, in the clinically-identified typical response to emotional abuse

4) A genuine reluctance to impose my preferences on someone else, arising from a focus on being with someone as a source of happiness, rather than a personal need/desire to engage in any specific activity or pursue any specific life goal.

So, if I am correct and I shouldnt have ever gotten married, what do I do now?

Its quite possible the situation may resolve itself naturally, i.e., she decides to bail. If so, your proper response should be congratulations, not condolences, k?

Why don't I bail?

A combination of my sense of responsibility and hope.

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posted by Nathan on 05:41 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)

May 31, 2008

Trolling for Nano-Pundit Links: Nanopaper Soaks Up Oil Spills « Stuff Important to Me »

Cool stuff. Because I'm all about technology helping keep the environment clean. We aren't going to roll back the clock and return to primitivism. Technology will make things dirty, and we must use technology to clean it up:

It looks like paper. It feels like paper. It's even made like paper. But this paper, made from metal nanowires, can sit in water for months and never get wet, while soaking up to 20 times its weight in oil.

[snip]

By itself, the nanopaper sucks up water just like normal paper. But by coating the nanopaper with siloxane vapor, a common polymer, the researchers turned it from a super hydrophilic material into a super hydrophobic material, repelling water while attracting oil.

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posted by Nathan on 09:48 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

May 09, 2008

Home Equity Line of Credit Scam? « Stuff Important to Me »

It's supposedly a way to pay your mortgage down more quickly.

I first heard about the CMG Mortgage's Home Ownership Accelerator HELOC, and the associated video; then through my research on that company, heard about First United Financial's Money Merge Account, which sounds a little better, maybe.

Honestly, they both sound a little too good to be true. Since I'm currently putting all my extra income/cash toward paying down my homeloan, I could theoretically pay down a $186k loan in 3.5 years living life normally, instead of the current 5.5 years with belts tightened severely...

Does anyone know anyone who has done this?

The math works. The details are sketchy. The fine print (I haven't seen yet) scares me.

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posted by Nathan on 07:40 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Weird Last Names « Stuff Important to Me »

I saw a guy on base with the last name of "Balthazar".

Seriously.

[shrug] Maybe I'm making too big a deal out of it, but that sounds like one of the minor deities' names in D&D. Or the name of a demon in some Christian morality novel.

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posted by Nathan on 11:04 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

April 29, 2008

Moving Update « Stuff Important to Me »

We are now (sort of) moved into our new home (no furniture).
But we do have internet access, so that's a good thing.

We purchased a 2002 Ford Explorer XLS for $5500 out the door. It has come in handy...but man, I wince every time I look at the gas gauge. Then again, there are plenty of Durangos and Suburbans and Excursions and Expeditions out there in addition to plenty of other Explorers. If they can deal with it, so can I. And heck, the Explorer really is the 00's version of the 70s Ford LTD station wagon we had when I was a kid. Which is why we bought it: we want to go camping with a pop-up trailer next summer.

The house is a mini Money Pit. It looked nice when all I was looking at was size, room layout, overall condition. After moving in, there are various assorted leaks and badly-done caulk jobs. They threw a cheap coat of paint and cheap carpet on top of everything, and that made it look "clean". And we got it for cheap...$82k for 1600 square feet ain't bad. But I'm going to have to spend another $2-3k just fixing their badly-done jobs, if I want to do it right (to include getting all new doors for every room). I don't think my wife will okay that budget expense right now, though...keeping the old place in Hawaii, buying more furniture to fill up a bigger house, and the down payment for the new place have all depleted our savings significantly.

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posted by Nathan on 05:40 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

April 15, 2008

Fodder for Science Fiction Stories « Stuff Important to Me »

10 Inventions We're Still Waiting For.

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posted by Nathan on 06:59 AM | Comments (12) | TrackBack (0)

April 14, 2008

Theft is a Social Disease...(UPDATED) « Stuff Important to Me »

...and I caught it from Mr Lady.

She took the meme without being asked, and I like it, so I am, too.

If you don't like it, you must blame her for corrupting me, naturally.

Anyway, enough nattering! Here we go:

1. List three books youve always meant to read, but havent got around to them

2. Share the two books that changed your life

3. Recommend the one book youve been talking about since the very first day youve read it

1a. Romance of the Three Kingdoms in Chinese.
I'm fluent, so it shouldn't be any problem. But the first page is obscure, flowery prose, and I can't get past it to get to the good stuff. Maybe next time I'll just skip the first page.

1b. Any scholarly work on China. I have a hard time reading non-fiction in general.

1c. Jane Austin. Or one of the Bronte sisters.

2a. The Depression Book. It literally changed my life, as it was the single resource that helped me end my depression for good. Nifty book. Worth 100 times the asking price, if not more. (This might be it.

2b. Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis.
I never really read the whole Bible, so I can't really list that. But Lewis' novel really makes much sense to me. I recommend any and all read it, Christian and non-Christian alike. I go through times where I can see the hand of God clearly in my life, and other times when I think the times I saw clearly the hand of God were just self-hypnosis. This book is best for the latter times.

3. Tie: Silverlock by Jon Myers Myers and The Last Coin, by James P. Blaylock, and The Chronicles of Amber by Roger Zelazny.
That's really cheating, since not only did I not hold myself to 1, the third is a five-book series by itself. (But it was amazingly good in teaching me the power of perspective; and what a swashbuckling adventure novel could and should be)

These three books are must-reads, even for those who don't normally like fantasy/science fiction. Maybe especially for those who don't normally like fantasy/science fiction.

UPDATE: Forgot to add: David J., you are so tagged.

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posted by Nathan on 09:30 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

April 10, 2008

Custody Battle Musings « Stuff Important to Me »

After thinking things over, I'm now 99% certain we won.

This is because going into the trial portion, the Custody Evaluator had said both parents seemed equally good at parenting, and based on this, the judge said to lay off the recriminations and talk about the positive reasons for custody being awarded to you.

Despite that, my ex-wife's main arguments were:
1) I am a bad dad
2) Spokane has better schools, and she has a big house
3) I interfered with her contact and visitation

My main retorts were:
1) The Custody Evaluator says I'm a great dad, and my wife is a great stepmother. Plus the Evaluator said we have a 3-year track record of success, but it's anyone's guess whether my ex- can continue to give the kids a good family or not.
--strike one for the ex-
2) Parental involvement matters more than a difficult-to-define school "quality", and we have concrete plans to give the kids the tools to have a successful life, not just a nice house to live in for a few years.
--strike two for the ex-
3) I did not intend to interfere with contact or visitation. I gave evidence I had made good faith efforts to ensure both, but she constantly acted in bad faith regarding both contact and visitation.
--strike three for the ex-

I may not have hit 100% on all three points, and there were a few other, less-central points that I might have only fought to a draw. But these three big points were all refuted, and she absolutely failed to demonstrate at all that she was anything more than "just as good", and that shouldn't be enough to win custody.

Add on top of that the fact that she admitted under oath that she'd been married for 2 full years, but let the Evaluator believe she'd been married only 4 months because no one asked*, and I think it revealed the falseness of even her plausible-sounding distortions.

Read More "Custody Battle Musings" »

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posted by Nathan on 01:31 PM | Comments (32) | TrackBack (0)

April 09, 2008

Law Suit Side Effect « Stuff Important to Me »

I had to face up to my mistakes. I had to face someone who used to claim she loved me distort me, my words, and my actions in an effort to get something she wanted. I had to watch total strangers examine the truth about my worst times over the last 3 years, and endure lies about the same.

I think I grew up a lot.

Right now, I feel like I'll face up to my mistakes much more, and not be such a wuss about situations that make me feel uncomfortable.

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posted by Nathan on 07:35 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack (0)

April 07, 2008

Lawsuit Update « Stuff Important to Me »

Well, the trial seemed to go fine. I think we got our point across, and she got caught in several lies, and didn't follow the judge's instructions. We had some other advantages, too.

We'll see if the pro-female bias in courts overcomes our advantages.

But we don't find out until next Tuesday! :(

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posted by Nathan on 09:25 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

April 06, 2008

Remember Me In Your Thoughts « Stuff Important to Me »

Monday, 7 April, I go to trial for custody of my kids. No posting, probably.

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posted by Nathan on 10:16 PM | Comments (331) | TrackBack (0)

March 04, 2008

Favre retires.

It's about time.

Expect all sorts of overwrought, breathless butt-kissing over the next few days. The above link provides this example:

Americas favorite Cheesehead departs the NFL as one of the best quarterbacks it ever had, and arguably the best.

Um, not even close.
Favre is nowhere close to being even "arguably" close to the QB greatness of Joe Montana, John Elway, Johnny U., Bart Starr, and many others.

Brett Favre was an arrogant gunslinger who lost as many games for his team as we won, set the record for INTs almost as quickly as he set the record for TDs, and only holds his consecutive start record due to overindulging in pain-killing drugs.

He is not the guy I would want behind center in a must-win game down by ten, because he'd throw the losing INT 2 times out of 3.

He has three top stats: 3 consecutive MVPs (less from his accomplishments and more for being the favorite of Monday Night Football and other sports announcers), more TDs in his career than anyone else, and consecutive starts (which is already explained by his dependence on drugs to get on the field). Along the way, he won a single Super Bowl when his GM signed a bevy of questionable-character, top-talent FAs to "get over the top".

I'm not impressed with Brett Favre. The enduring image of Brett, to me, is him being stupid enough to throw a pass while on his knees, and throwing an INT.

10 years from now, people will be sitting around wondering what all the hype was, much like Tony Dorsett.

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posted by Nathan on 07:50 AM | Comments (28) | TrackBack (0)

February 12, 2008

Still More Proof That Nilou Motamed is Very Beautiful « Stuff Important to Me »

Here's the proof.

(AOL apparently doesn't allow you to embed their video. At least, they don't offer the code to do so, and I'm too lazy to copy from any of the previous embedded video posts.

Okay, I'll stop.

Read More "Still More Proof That Nilou Motamed is Very Beautiful" »

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posted by Nathan on 07:44 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

February 11, 2008

Just In Case You Don't Believe Nilou Motamed is Very Beautiful... « Stuff Important to Me »

...I give you some video proof:

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posted by Nathan on 07:08 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

February 08, 2008

Ladies and Gentlemen (especially for the Gentlemen): « Stuff Important to Me »

I give you Nilou Motamed, who is still very beautiful:

NilouMotamed_Cohen_8314810.jpg

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posted by Nathan on 07:05 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

February 04, 2008

Super Bowl Commercial Reactions « Stuff Important to Me »

Please, please, please dont go see Jumper.

They screw up the book, royally.
Par for the course, for Hollywood, and thats exactly what Im sick of.

If you have read the book, see for yourself.

Audi commercial? I dont think having an old man screaming in emotional pain is good for your brand, no matter how clever the pop culture reference. Bridgestone? Good. GMC Yukon? Stupid. Great ad for the rest of the year, but Super Bowl ads are about entertainment, and that was about as entertaining as Gores Inconvenient Truth. The Planters commercial is exactly what Super Bowl commercials are all about. The eTrade baby was clever, interesting...I don't think I ever need or want to see it again, though.

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posted by Nathan on 12:18 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

September 06, 2007

Yet Another IPR vs Technology Rant « Stuff Important to Me »

Ridley Scott says video players like iPod and PSP are ruining cinema. Silicon Hutong says they will save it.

In my opinion, Silicon Hutong gets it wrong from the very first sentence:

Because, you see, the problem is not technology.

But he comes closer as he continues:

It is Scott and people like him, people who really like Things the Way They Are, because Things the Way They Are have made them rich and famous and lets them make expensive movies and take home little trophies. These folks do not particularly like technology (watch Scott's movies - he hates tech), do not understand people who do, and are deep down in places they do not talk about at Malibu parties they are just plain scared of anything with a microchip.

They see all of this change happening and are smart enough to understand that it means The End of the World As They Know It. And they are terrified. Hence Ridley's mobile device fixation.

Which is all correct. But Silicon Hutong goes off the rails again when he says:

Technology, in its different forms, is getting set to bring about a cinematic renaissance. More people can make films, make them cheaper, and get them in front of audiences faster and easier today than anytime since Mayer, Zukor, Laemmle, Cohn, Fox, Warner, and Disney showed up in L.A. and started buying orange groves. Green screens, cheap gear, and powerful software means that you don't have to spend $200 million to make an epic - you just need a script, a camera, and a Macintosh.

Starting to see what's bugging Ridley?

I don't think that's totally correct.

Yes, technology is going to create a cinematic renaissance.

What bothers Ridley and his ilk is that what technology provided, technology also is in the process of taking away.

Technology allowed the recording of a performance; thus, a single person was able to create a "performance" of art that could be disseminated in near-perfect copy at a cheap distribution price to mass audiences (in the thousands and millions) at a high viewing cost.

How it all worked:
The performer only had to do it once, but the audience could experience it at another time, or even multiple times, without increasing the cost to the performer. But that required a massively expensive studio infrastructure that individuals could not afford, and the cooperation of the performer.

The next enabler was equipment that could reproduce the performances extremely cheaply, but was expensive enough to be a barrier to individuals (which expense became relative cheap when the costs were spread out through mass sales).

The supply was then limited to a single company that controlled the master copy of the performance. Some technology allowed other copies of the performances to be made, but the product was invariably extremely inferior. Thus, the production/distribution company could set whatever price the market would bear. Mass production and economies of scale allowed that price to be low enough to attract millions of viewers, but with a production cost that was a tiny fraction of the viewing price.

That process made the artist and the production/distribution company very rich.

But it is an artificially restricted supply.

Digital technology allows an individual with cheap equipment to make an extremely cheap near-exact single copy of a performance.

Digital emancipation from the production/distribution overlords. Now they can't get rich on a single performance. Now the artists can reach their audience directly without help...without an opportunity for a corporation to make money on each transaction.

And the artist is now under pressure to produce or perish. One performance can quickly leave the control of the creator. If he can stimulate demand, he has a window to make money while the supply is limited. But natural diminishing returns will end the cash train much more quickly than before.

And what's wrong with that?

Is there a rule that someone who writes a simple little three-chord song should become a millionaire just because someone 20 years ago could by doing the same thing?

Nope.

I am a creator, by the way. Not just by what you see here on this blog. I make music; I sing, I play guitar, I compose...you will be seeing some of that here soon. I hope you like it and decide to purchase some CDs from me, or individual songs. I think I can make enough money to make it worth my while before people start copying it (...or it might not be any good and I won't make any money at all). I can put low-quality copies, or truncate the performance to stimulate you to purchase the complete work. But eventually people will start "pirating" copies; I won't care, though, because each copy that gets made will be an advertisement for my future works. And there will always be people willing to pay for the convenience of getting the recorded performance directly from me.
I also write. And no technology can duplicate holding a book in your hand...I think I can eventually get published; and I will put some (or maybe all) of my books online for free after they are published, because I doubt it will make me lose any revenue. They will be advertisements for future sales.

Bottom line:
Don't depend on technology-produced artificial limits on supply.

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posted by Nathan on 10:10 AM | Comments (24) | TrackBack (0)

August 15, 2007

Nanobattery! « Stuff Important to Me »

This is pretty cool. They haven't even begun to plumb the myriad possibilities yet, I'm sure.

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posted by Nathan on 11:02 AM | Comments (10) | TrackBack (0)

August 14, 2007

Interesting Ecological News « Stuff Important to Me »

It's a statistical push-back on some claims to save the earth through using ice to cool rather than air conditioners.

But the result is not debunked savings, but debunked excessive claims. Using ice still does help save electricity and reduce pollution.

That's a good thing, no matter what your view is of the Sham That Is The Consensus Politi-Science of Global Climate Change.

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posted by Nathan on 09:15 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)

August 13, 2007

Expensive Mushrooms! « Stuff Important to Me »

Man, I wish I had a small forest of 40+ year-old evergreens!

The best part? They guard their plots like moonshiners or marijuana cultivators!

Pickers keep their patches secret and guard them from intruders, often with guns. A mushroom poacher once tried to shoot Kouy Loch, who both picks mushrooms and works as a mushroom monitor for the Forest Service. Dana Van Pelt, the owner of a campsite, said more than a thousand pickers come in good years, along with the drugs, the prostitution, the robbing at gunpoint.

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posted by Nathan on 10:24 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

July 20, 2007

Future Military Tech Development « Militaria » « Stuff Important to Me » « Writing »

Pretty cool use of technology.

It always seems like there are some developments that are always on the horizon, like flying cars. It never gets here.

But other things show up before we know it, like the internet, and MP3s, and cell phones.

From a Science Fiction writer point of view, it amazes me how much the professional writers just plain miss. Think of all the stories written in the 60s and 70s (or earlier). Not just SF stories, but normal love stories, comedies, thrillers, etc. How many movies/novels had the main portion of tension arising from lack of convenient long-distance communication? Friday the 13th couldn't really be made intelligently without addressing the prevalence of cell phones (I understand "Scream" did address that...but maybe not completely).

So in all the future looks about technology, when FTL travel and cloning have been solved, very few posit the exponential growth of computational ability. My laptop can do more than the ship's computer in Star Trek.

I'm trying to incorporate much of that in the story I'm working on now. If I finish it (and I think this one will be completed, for various reasons I don't want to discuss now), I'll look into trying to work a method of blog-publishing it for your reading pleasure in conjunction with my PayPal TipJar...

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posted by Nathan on 10:38 AM | Comments (20) | TrackBack (0)

July 17, 2007

Another Reason to Hate "i" Products « Stuff Important to Me »

...as if you needed another reason. They always try to take over everything they touch, just like Real Player does with your computer.

The iPhone greedily tries to dominate wireless networks.

Apple: making things suck worse one user at a time.

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posted by Nathan on 06:28 AM | Comments (10) | TrackBack (0)

July 13, 2007

Global Warming? Hah. « Stuff Important to Me »

For what it's worth, this year has been slightly cooler than the previous two, here on Oahu. Or, on this part of Oahu.

Global Warmening isn't something to worry about.

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posted by Nathan on 11:36 AM | Comments (13) | TrackBack (0)

July 10, 2007

"Worms, Roxanne! I Was Afraid of Worms!" « Stuff Important to Me »

Inexplicably, worms are not as green as once thought.

Huh.

Or should that be...?

Indeed.

The problem is, the worms used in composting happen to emit nitrous oxide a greenhouse gas far more powerful than carbon dioxide...

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posted by Nathan on 09:20 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

June 30, 2007

I Love Happy Endings!!! « Stuff Important to Me »

Here's one...

..and guess what?
Here's another.

As a true conservative, I like conserving things that are good, and good for people. I care regardless of whether it is fashionable, as long as it is feasible...and it usually is. Taking care of the earth and the places we live is important. Leaving space for nature is important. I support continuing to create, fund, and maintain National Parks and other wildlife preserves.

If you've never been, you need to spend at least one week in a designated Wilderness Area. The true places where you should take nothing but photographs, leave nothing but footprints.

My visits were to the Beartooth Wilderness Area in Montana. That wilderness area is home to East Rosebud Lake, Slough Lake, Elk Lake, Rainbow Lake, Tempest Mountain, and Granite Peak. Those are my favorite places on this earth.

That should mean quite a bit, considering I live in and have spent nearly one fifth of my life here in Hawaii, a place many people consider paradise on earth.

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posted by Nathan on 04:57 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)

June 29, 2007

Language Quirks « Stuff Important to Me »

I was asked to give blood today. I didn't have time. I very nearly added an explanation that I used to give blood religiously, but stopped myself in time.

Because later I was thinking: what would that literally mean? If I say I gave blood religiously, you would probably take my intent that I used to give regularly, as a matter of principle, as if it were as important to me as observing my religious rituals.

But literally, it might mean that I would whip myself with a scourge until I drew blood (as practiced by Shiite Muslims and some Christian sects), or I might pierce my chest with rawhide thongs and be drawn up to the ceiling by it until I came up with my name in the induced delirium (some plains Indian tribes), or I might lay down on an alter and have my head, heart, or other body part removed (Incas, Mayans, Hawaiian tribes...maybe nearly any pre-industrial pagan group).

Which made me think: what if someone said they used to go to church religiously...

How else would you go to church?

All of which leads to the realization that there are many words that gain a different meaning in common use than originally intended, and thus language changes and evolves.

So "I could care less" means the same as "I couldn't care less". And "fortuitous" picks up the feeling of being fortunate, and so on, and people use "literally!" to mean "figuratively, with exaggeration for emphasis" (as parodied in the Saturday Night Live "...literally!" sketches).

Maybe you can throw the two opposite meanings of "cleave" in that mix, too.

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posted by Nathan on 03:23 PM | Comments (21) | TrackBack (0)

June 28, 2007

Colstrip: My Home Town is Montana's #1 Sports Town « Stuff Important to Me »

Um, sure.

I expected a discussion of the number of sports championships won over the years, indexed against population. Or perhaps the number of miles traveled by the sports teams and/or supporters. I remember lots of overnight trips with the Pep Band for B-Ball tourneys. Had a very nice time once when I was the Girls Volleyball manager and we got snowed in for 3 days in Sidney. I was the only male in the group...

Anyway, here is Sports Illustrated's reasoning:

This town of just 4.5 square miles has 23 parks - almost one park for every 100 people - its own community center, a baseball/softball complex, tennis and volleyball courts, several soccer fields, a BMX track and a nine-hole golf course.

The CPRD also offers an extensive array of recreation opportunities, from youth and adult leagues to before- and after-school programs. Colstrip also lays claim to the longest-running triathlon west of the Mississippi, and has hosted the local "Spoilathlon" [sic] every year since 1976.

Were very proud of our programming, especially for the youth of Colstrip, said Bill Neumiller, President of the CPRD's Board of Commissioners. In addition to starting our children on a path of lifelong involvement in sports, these programs allow our teens and young adults the opportunity to teach their skills to those younger kids, which helps them grow as well.

When you add everything up, the choice of Colstrip as Montana's SI Sportstown like a no-brainer. And from the looks of things, Colstrip is one energetic community that shows no signs of losing steam anytime soon.

I participated in the 1982 Spoilathon. Or maybe '83. I don't remember. I achieved a second-place finish in my age group through the strategic decision of being in an age group with only two people.

...but I finished.

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posted by Nathan on 10:32 AM | Comments (299) | TrackBack (0)

June 18, 2007

Pet Peeve « Stuff Important to Me »

As I attempt to improve my communication ability (mostly, trying to be a better speaker), I'm growing more sensitive to others' speaking imperfections.

Most of them are no big deal. I'm surprised, frankly, by the number of people who repeat words as the speak (basically, a verbal pause which is bracketed by the repeated word...not quite stuttering...).

However, the only verbal tic that truly annoys me is when a person says something they feel is important, then trails off with an open-ended: "So..."

What? You said that statement, so what, exactly, is the conclusion you are failing to share with us? Do you lack the confidence necessary to provide the conclusion? Do you think the conclusion is obvious? If so, then why even imply there is a conclusion you are not verbalizing?!?!?

[sigh]

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posted by Nathan on 08:49 AM | Comments (38) | TrackBack (0)

April 04, 2007

My Thoughts on Windows Vista « Stuff Important to Me »

I bought a laptop with Vista (Toshiba Satellite) because it was the best deal. I was hesitant because of all the complaints I'd heard about it, but just couldn't justify paying an extra $100 for slower/lesser hardware just to get XP.

I've used it for about 6 weeks now, and I have two impressions:

1) I don't get what all the complaining is about. Vista has run every bit of software I've tried, from old games designed for DOS and Win95 to new music editing software designed for XP, to XP freeware and shareware. The screen does occasionally go black and freak me out...but it lasts only a second and I'm okay with it. Not a single crash yet. No problem with digital rights management, either.

2) I don't get what all the excitement is about. The eye candy is just that: eye candy. I don't need my windows to float in space so I can flip through them like cards. I don't need preview windows popping up like bubbles. The new start menu is fine, but I was okay with the old one. To me, a completely average user, the change was pretty much a non-issue. Maybe security was improved, but I can't see that.

The only thing I truly like about Windows Vista is the cool "Aurora Borealis" (or whatever the name actually is) screensaver. It really reminds me of the real thing, and is hauntingly beautiful.

Side note: my wife's 2-year-old Toshiba Satellite still has significant and apparently unfixable bugs with the East Asian setting on the language bar. So it's not like XP had ever achieved anything close to perfection.

Bottom line: So much of what we do with computers is done so often it becomes a habit, a system. Thus, changing our habits for features that aren't clearly an advantage is annoying; changing our habits to deal with new bugs is even more so. That's the source of Vista complaints, I think.

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posted by Nathan on 07:51 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Best Fantasy Novels/Series « Stuff Important to Me »

Richard Adams, Watership Down

Lloyd Alexander, Chronicles of Prydain

Robert Lynn Aspirin, Myth Adventures

L. Frank Baum, The Oz series (many of the other Oz novels were quite good)

Steven Brust, any/all Drageara novels; Agyar is excellent, as well

Emma Bull, War for the Oaks, the first Liavek collection, and her Borderland stories/novels

Lois McMasters Bujold, The Spirit Ring and The Curse of Chalion

C. J. Cherryh, The Morgaine series (I havent read any of her other fantasy novels yet)

Barbara Hambly, Those Who Hunt the Night and the Sun Wolf and Starhawk series

John Myers Myers, Silverlock and The Harp and the Blade

Terry Pratchett, any of the Discworld novels, but especially The Night Watch

Fred Saberhagen, The entire Swords series (although it is based on the technically Science Fiction trilogy, Empire of the East, the Swords series is fully fantasy)

J. R. R. Tolkein, The Lord of the Rings series, Hobbit (obviously, you cant make a list of top fantasy novels without Toleinbut I want to point out that Tolkeins writings have some significant flaws)

Stephen R. Donaldson, The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, Unbeliever

(Comments will remain open, pending spammer activity)

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posted by Nathan on 07:37 AM | Comments (12) | TrackBack (0)

April 03, 2007

Career Choice, Next Up « Stuff Important to Me »

I'm thinking seriously about going to medical school after I retire from the military...

Thoughts?

(I'll leave comments open until/unless it becomes an irritation dealing with spam)

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posted by Nathan on 10:24 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

March 28, 2007

List of Best Science Fiction Novels/Series « Stuff Important to Me »

This is the list of books that most affected me, stuck in my head the most. Not necessarily the ones I liked the best.

Tunnel in the Sky, Robert A. Heinlein The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, Robert A. Heinlein Starship Troopers, Robert A. Heinlein Day After Tomorrow, Robert A. Heinlein The Puppet Masters, Robert A. Heinlein (the Grandmaster; what else can you say? Avoid Stranger in a Strange Land and everything written after that, which was the point Heinlein went senile and started getting obsessed with writing soft-core porn) {You know that's blasphemy --ed. I know, I don't care; it's what I think}

Brain Wave, Poul Anderson (decent)

Jumper, Steven Gould
Wildside, Steven Gould (Excellent What If? novels)

Foreigner Series, C.J. Cherryh
Pride of Chanur, C.J. Cherryh
Finitys End, C.J. Cherryh
Rimrunners, C.J. Cherryh
Cyteen, C.J. Cherryh (she's awesome; my favorite author right now, bar none. I couldn't understand many of her novels until I was an adult, when I did, I was bowled over. She has depth, intrigue, understands alien thought and language better than anyone I've ever seen)

The Vor Game, Lois McMaster Bujold (Read everything she's written; this is just a good introduction)

Legacy of Heorot Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle, & Steven Barnes
Fallen Angels, Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle, & Larry Flynn

Dreamworld, Larry Niven & Steven Barnes

The Burning City, Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle
Lucifers Hammer, Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle
Oath of Fealty, Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle
Inferno, Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle

Neutron Star, Larry Niven
The Integral Trees, Larry Niven (Read everything Larry Niven has written; if they aren't perfect, they're still all very good; sometimes his dialogue/characterization can get a little monotonous, but not often)

Wolf and Iron, Gordon R. Dickson
Dorsai, Gordon R. Dickson

Postman, David Brin
Startide Rising, David Brin (His Uplift saga get cartoonish, other novels are not professional enough for me, but these are good)

Replay, Ken Grimwood (excellent What If? novel)

The Last Coin, James P. Blaylock (only barely SF; I wanted to include it because I like it so much)

Chronicles of Amber, Roger Zelazny

Bone Dance, Emma Bull

Once a Hero, Elizabeth Moon (pretty much everything else she has written annoys me, though)

Empire of the East, Fred Saberhagen
Love Conquers All, Fred Saberhagen
Beserker, Fred Saberhagen

Mother of Storms, John Barnes (got other good novels, too; this is the best of the bunch)

War Against the Chtorr series, David Gerrold (not yet completed)

Neuromancer, William Gibson (for some reason, I think of Gibson as the Grisham of SF; keeps going back to the same well over and over, but keeps getting decent novels out of that I only want to read once, but immensely enjoy that one time)

Cobra, Timothy Zahn (never liked much else by him)

Hardwired, Walter Jon Williams (several good novels, this is just the best of the bunch)

Manifest Destiny, Barry B. Longyear
Infinity Hold, Barry B. Longyear

The Cool War, Frederick Pohl (other stuff can get a little depressing, but okay)

Enders Game, Orson Scott Card (must-read, but I didnt like it much; can't stand his other novels)

Decision at Doona, Anne McCaffery (good novel, but I dislike Ms McCaffery for some of the crap she's responsible, including foisting off some pretty crappy female writers on us)

Tuf Voyaging, George R. R. Martin

Johnny Maxwell Trilogy, Terry Pratchett (very loose parody of Enders Game)

Two Faces of Tomorrow, James P. Hogan (really good novel, but I couldn't get too excited about other novels of his)

Four-Day Planet, H. Beam Piper

A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthurs Court, Mark Twain

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep (Blade Runner), Philip K. Dick (the guy was seriously f'd up...but it's a good story, and a good novel)

Star Wars/Splinter of Minds Eye, Alan Dean Foster

The Forever War, Joe Haldeman
There is no Darkness, Joe Haldeman and Jack C. Haldeman

First Channel, Jacqueline Lichtenberg & Jean Lorrah (the series is fascinating, but gets old after too many minor variations on the same theme for each novel)

Midshipman's Hope, by David Feintuch (gets old after about halfway through the 2nd novel)

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posted by Nathan on 11:55 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

December 12, 2006

I'm Not an Enviro-Green, but... « Stuff Important to Me »

...apparently, sometimes I play one in the blogging world.

Or, as a very small minority of wackos calls it, the "blogosphere".

In any case, I will probably do this at some point in my life.

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posted by Nathan on 12:56 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

December 05, 2006

Space Exploration Announcement « Stuff Important to Me »

This is the best news I've heard in some time:

NASA announced Monday it will establish an international base camp on one of the moon's poles, permanently staffing it by 2024, four years after astronauts return to the moon.

The serendipitous benefits of space exploration are well worth the investment. I don't want to say something sweeping and unfair like, "And anyone who doesn't think so is a complete ignoramus"...but it's hard not to: Digital time-pieces, computer advances, teeth capping, improved medicine, steel, the continued development of superconductors...all are benefits from the space program that have added billions of dollars to our GDP and improved our quality of life immensely.

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posted by Nathan on 08:27 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

December 03, 2006

More Evidence That Nilou Motamed is Very Beautiful « Stuff Important to Me »

motamed100.jpg

Not that it matters. Personality is more important than a temporal attractiveness that will, inevitably, fade. And I'm married to the woman I will love for the rest of my life.

...but you gotta continue a theme. Especially when it gets you some hits.

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posted by Nathan on 10:47 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

November 28, 2006

A Strange Thought, in Passing « Stuff Important to Me »

Am I the only one who has no freaking clue how much I should save for retirement?

Full disclosure: I'm just short of 40.
Most paranoid line of thinking:
Unless I get hit by a truck or betrayed by the U.S. media and killed, I should live to at least age 80, based on demographics and genetics.
-But life expectancy marches ever higher.
-Technology is merely steepening that curve, if anything.
-There's a decent chance I might be of the generation that manages to continually live long enough for the next age-boosting tech to appear, at least for a couple decades...or even a couple of centuries.

Less paranoid thought process:
I'm pushing for a military retirement. That could net me between $3000 and $4800 per month in 2006 dollars, depending on my final rank and how long I stay beyond 20 years (or not). Over the last 5 years, I've saved $25k in my supplemental retirement fund; assuming I stay in 10 more years for a total of 22, I should have $100k in savings (due to steady percentage of increasing earnings), two homes paid off (one in China, one in the U.S.), a paid-off, reliable car, and $3600/month in 2006 dollars. I'll also be 47, young enough to keep working if I want...but hopefully I'll have embarked on a writing career of at least marginal financial success. (I'm about 20 pages into what will be my first finished novel, still gaining acceptance as a sports writer, too...and who knows what will happen with the blog?)

Is that enough?

If it isn't, what do I do?

They say you should have enough money to have 80% of your final income. That makes sense...your tax burdern should be reduced significantly by retiring, so you should only need 80% of your pre-retirement income to live at exactly the same level...plus, you can perhaps stop worrying about investing for retirement when you are actually, you know, retired. But being retired, isn't that the time you want to travel more? And perhaps get a little luxurious in your retirement?

When can I start flying first class?

And if, at age 65, you don't know if you're going to live 3 years or 30 years, how do you plan?

I'm hoping that with houses paid off, we will be able to live comfortably entirely within my retirement pay. Then if/when I earn anything with writing, it's gravy...then I can fly first class if the gravy allows it.
The problem is, maintaining a house and keeping touch with families on two different continents will make travel between the two expensive...probably 4 plane trips a year for two people...first class could make it prohibitively expensive.

Maybe I'd better get a movie deal out of one of my books...

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posted by Nathan on 09:42 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

November 23, 2006

Panasonic Lumix DMC FZ10 « Stuff Important to Me »

I happily and unreservedly recommend the Panasonic Lumix FZ10 digital camera to anyone who wants to take great pictures, but doesn't want to spend the money it would take to buy a Digital SLR camera.

You can buy the camera for only about $400 these days. You can get barrel adapter tubes for $14 to let you add other lenses. Filters and such are also easily available.

It's not the newest camera on the block, so maybe recent upgrades are even better. But I won't be replacing the camera any time soon. I love it.

I originally decided to purchase it due the reviews and pictures at Steve's digicam reviews. In my opinion, it's one of the best resources if you are looking for a new camera.

Here's what I love about my camera:
It has a great lens. It does great in close-ups, and can zoom forever (or at least feels like it). I've never noticed any barrel distortion. In my amateur opinion, it captures colors perfectly, particularly skin tones. It does video with digital sound quite ably.

It uses proprietary lithium ion batteries, but I just purchased an extra one and keep it charged and in the camera case. I've never come close to running out of juice. It uses SD cards, and I have two 128MB cards. Again, I've never come close to running out of room, not even on my honeymoon when I took lots of video of waterfalls and such.

It has all sorts of different settings on a dial on the body for various uses. You can get into the menu and change some settings, too. But for the most part, I just point, adjust the zoom, and shoot. And I get great shots. I've been complimented on my photography several times. I have to tell them, truthfully, that I have good subjects living in Hawaii, and I have a good camera that makes normal shots look beautiful and luxurious.

There are a few drawbacks, but those are dependent on your desires, mostly. -There is a button that makes the camera shoot 3 rapid-fire exposures with one press of the shutter button. Unfortunately, the button is located right next to the shutter button; I've had some opportunities missed when I asked a stranger to take a picture of me, and their unfamililarity with the camera led to the rapid-fire shots, and none came out well due to movement.
-It is a near-SLR camera, so it can't fit in your shirt-pocket. You should use a case/bag to protect it, and its lens size means you just about have to use a small videocamera bag.
-Again, it is a near-SLR, so it takes a second to extend the lens before it is ready to use. This isn't a big deal, as it is far faster than most of the point/shoot cameras. I haven't yet missed a shot waiting for it to get ready, but I admit I have had to anticipate a good shot and turn on the camera a few seconds earlier to get the shot in time.

Here's some examples. Unfortunately, my blog wouldn't let me upload them full size. I hope it didn't lose too much impact/beauty in the conversion.

View image

View image

You can see what the zoom function does. The first was on zero zoom, the 2nd was full zoom, if I recall correctly.

View image

View image

This also shows some of the color brilliance and low-light performance. There is some "noise". I can live with that amount.

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posted by Nathan on 10:06 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

November 21, 2006

Well, I'm Back « Stuff Important to Me »

I guess.

I haven't done this for a while.

I've changed alot in the time since I stopped blogging here, and even more during the time I stopped blogging over at Chiefly Musing.

I may surprise some people. Then again, I was always a little weird, anyway, so maybe nothing can shock you people. We'll see.

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posted by Nathan on 03:20 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

August 04, 2005

Quick Hits « Stuff Important to Me »

1) 83% of the problems in our society are caused by people making up statistics to support their point.

2) Is it unavoidable that the higher we are able to satisfy ourselves on the hierarchy of needs, the less profound/pervasive the satisfaction?

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posted by Nathan on 04:10 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

August 03, 2005

Two Things About Hawaii « Stuff Important to Me »

Hawaii has the stupidest birds in the world. If you get too close, they walk to get away from you, rather than flying. A bird was sitting in the middle of the road today. Just sitting! Was that the best place it could find??

Several (just about all) of the fast food restaurants in the area are staffed entirely by women, ranging from high school up to middle age, including crew chiefs, assistant managers, and managers. I'm not sure why I find that so interesting.

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posted by Nathan on 12:52 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack (0)

August 02, 2005

No Known Fatalities « Stuff Important to Me »

Interesting story.

Man...France, plane crash...I should be able to come up with something snarky.

...I got nothing.

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posted by Nathan on 03:47 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

July 11, 2005

Glory Be! « Stuff Important to Me »

Blockbuster just notified me that they are sending out the complete first season of Reno: 9/11.

I can't wait!

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posted by Nathan on 12:37 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

July 07, 2005

July 06, 2005

Episode Seven: In Which I Tell You Too Much About My Mood, Again (UPDATED) « Stuff Important to Me »

Folks, I'm mired in the doldrums. I haven't done a decent pun post in quite a while. I don't even get satisfaction making cheap shots at easy/deserving targets anymore.

I may recover soon, or I may not.

I do know that every other time I "quit", I ended up blogging again relatively soon, so I'm not going to make that mistake again. The longest absence resulted in email rants (that often crossed lines of politeness and/or good taste) to one friends, and spamming ZB with silly top-10 lists.

A few months ago I was quite excited about the blogosphere, and my place in it. After all, with all the others who have quit, I'm one of the older bloggers out there, closing in on my 3rd anniversary. I have name recognition. I'm positioned!*

But since then, I'm falling farther behind. The boosted interaction and traffic increases I hoped would arise from networking at RMBB never really materialized. I've also noticed how the people who are really doing the best at blogging are, more and more, people who already coming with journalistic experience.

Maybe part of my problem is I'm a Mil-blogger who rarely blogs about military experiences. I'm a pun-blogger who hasn't punned in weeks. I'm a gun-blogger who hasn't fired a firearm in over year (and left my guns on the mainland).

I used to fancy myself intelligent and capable. But I'm still blogging at 2002/3 levels of talent and ability, and it's obvious that the State of the Art has passed me by. I still have ideas and viewpoints worth sharing, and I will continue to do so. But it can be frustrating that I seem to be getting less and less attention from the Bigger Bloggers.

I know I'm not vapid, dull, or insipid...but yeah, the lack of attention sometimes causes me to feel that way.

In some ways, I think this angst is just me going through the process of realizing I'm probably not going to achieve another dream. I had to go through it as I realized I was never going to get around to trying to walk on to the college football (or minor football league) team as a running back or tight end. I had to face the fact that I was probably never going to be famous singer, songwriter, bassist, or guitarist...or even a non-famous professional. Now it seems like I just don't have the right combination of skill and drive to become a professional writer (i.e. paid to write anything). It's okay, I can live with that...but I don't have to enjoy that realization.

So I'm going to keep blogging, worry not (or worry more, perhaps). But there will be some changes around here. I may move off of mu.nu. I'm planning on asking someone to help me redesign my blog...which may necessitate a new blogging tool, which may encourage me to move off on my own. Anyway, I've got to find some way to refresh my enjoyment. I gotta blog, that's no doubt. I just want to make it a more pleasant experience for everyone involved.**

UPDATE: Looks like I'm not the only one. Luckily, I have a following for my KC Chiefs pieces to fall back on. I will be writing more about the Chiefs starting this weekend, when my time frees up again.

Bonus point: I think part of the problem is that lots of blogs have become "group blogs", so I'm not competing against just a single individual (to which my often-prodigious output looks semi-impressive), but against multiple people blogging on the same site...with a resultant broader range of perspective, experience, and an ability for each to blog less, with higher quality, and yet still have just as much new content on their site as I have to try to match alone. It exhausts one, I tell you. But in another few months, I'm sure I'll be back to my normal 5-6 decently-long posts per day. After I get past these doldrums, I mean.

Read More "Episode Seven: In Which I Tell You Too Much About My Mood, Again (UPDATED)" »

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posted by Nathan on 01:55 PM | Comments (11) | TrackBack (0)

June 27, 2005

Sanguinary Thoughts « Stuff Important to Me »

I've always thought a good slogan for a blood drive would be, "Whaddya want from me? Blood?"

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posted by Nathan on 06:35 AM | Comments (3)

June 16, 2005

Keeping Your Stories Straight « Stuff Important to Me »

I pulled put my annotated screenplay tonight. Let me remind you of something Obi-wan said to Luke:

When I first knew him, your father was already a great pilot. But I was amazed at how strongly the Force was with him. I took it upon myself to train him as a Jedi. I thought that I could instruct him just as well as Yoda. I was wrong.

I count at least three full-blown contradictions with the prequels.

...so much for Lucas' boast about having the whole series already written...

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posted by Nathan on 10:52 PM | Comments (7)

June 15, 2005

This article makes me suspect that Taiwan hasn't even become a truly democratic nation even since martial law was lifted and the native Taiwanese were nominally allowed to participate in politics.

A question: if a people don't really have a voice in their governance, but think they do, is it still democracy? Even more importantly, does it matter if it's not?*

Which, I must say, is why I'm not only not overly concerned about a Congressional attempt to amend the US Constitution to ban flag-desecration, I'm also somewhat encouraged by it.

See, I won't support the amendment, and I'll let my state legislature know about it.

But it is time to return some power to the state legislatures. It is time that we don't take the word of a judge as the final word, but act to change things to be more in line with what The People really want...even if that result is that the people don't really want it.

This bill is good for the exercise of Democracy.

UPDATE: Related.

Read More "Illusion (UPDATED)" »

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posted by Nathan on 11:29 AM | Comments (3)

June 13, 2005

By The Way... « Stuff Important to Me »

This Friday, I will be a Captain (O-3). I'm saying it now, because by the time it happens, it will be Friday evening and no one would notice, so I thought I'd get it out there early.

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posted by Nathan on 11:31 PM | Comments (13)

June 09, 2005

How the Mighty Fall « Stuff Important to Me »

Complaints about George Lucas and what he did with the Star Wars franchise are all over the web, including an earlier post on this site.

Well, do you think that he might have avoided the problems if he'd just watched his own movie a few extra times?

Here's some quotes from Star Wars:

So the Jedi are one of the most influential among the ruling powers of the Republic. They are betrayed and destroyed, sure...but would a mere 20-year gap have resulted in opinions like this?

Hokey religions, and ancient weapons are no match for a good blaster at your side.

[I]'ve flown from one side of this galaxy to the other, I've seen a lot of strange stuff, but I've never seen anything to make me believe there's one all-powerful force controlling everything. There's no mystical energy field controls my destiny.

Viet Nam and Watergate have more influence after more than thirty years. Maybe he should have had the Jedi betrayed and destroyed earlier, or discredited more completely, or (best) had them been half-legend even when they existed.

And while Obi-Wan calls Anakin one of the best pilots he'd ever seen, there's no reason he had to be one of the most powerful Jedi trainees. Or that Obi-Wan had to be treated as semi-competent (as he was in Episode II and III). Not only does Obi-Wan defeat a Sith Apprentice single-handedly, Darth/Anakin himself seems to indicate Obi-Wan had always been far better than Anakin when he says:

I've been waiting for you Obi-Wan. We meet again, at last. The circle is now complete; when I left you, I was but the learner, now I am the master.

And do you think the former home of Anakin/Darth Vader, a place that the elected Queen of Naboo visited more than once, the best place she found to land her disabled ship, could be considered this way?

If there's a bright center to the universe, you're on the planet that is farthest from.

The worst pit of backwardness between Washington, D.C. and New York couldn't be described that way. You'd have to find something in North Dakota or Utah. George Lucas ignored most of the legend/mythos he gave us in Star Wars to make his prequels.

I'll say it flatly: George Lucas is a shortsighted, greedy egoist.

I will revisit this topic again.

Read More "How the Mighty Fall" »

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posted by Nathan on 05:38 PM | Comments (4)

June 06, 2005

The Specials « Stuff Important to Me »

If you've never seen The Specials (and you probably haven't even heard of it, except maybe earlier here), you need to put it onto your Netflix/Blockbuster queue.

It's a low, low budget film, which is a strange choice considering it's a movie about Superheroes. But it's the right choice, because the movie focuses on the people, and the interactions. The friend who recommended it to me said that no one ever uses their Superpowers in the movie (other than a quick sequence of each "power" at the end), but there are actually two demonstrated uses of Superpowers...if you see the movie, come back here and we'll see if you got 'em both. You'll slap your forehead on one of 'em, probably.

It makes some great comments on human nature, but that's a by-product; at least, at the point where it really tries to make a comment, it gets sappy and stupid. But when it is just trying to be funny (and the movie is funny), it shows a depth of understanding and the ability to communicate the understanding.

At one point, a guy and girl end up "getting together". I'm not saying who, because I don't want to give away any spoilers, and who they are is mostly unimportant to the point of this paragraph. The thing I found irritatingly correct is that it is absolutely up the girl. She had given no hint of liking the guy, and he wasn't at her place to make a move and probably never considered it before. But since she offers, he takes. And if the movie continued through real life, he probably would find himself in a committed relationship and then married, because she had decided. And as long as she continues to put the effort into the relationship, he'll probably stick with it. There are some variations for infidelity, and much of that depends on how much the woman decides to maintain her end, how much she establishes and enforces the guidelines against cheating...and if the guy is just plain a selfish jerk or not. Anyway, I'm not sure the director and characters really put that much into that situation; whether they did or didn't, I got that much out of it...inadvertant insight being the best part of Hollywood.

Anyway, go see the movie. It's awesome.

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posted by Nathan on 09:58 AM | Comments (0)

June 03, 2005

One of the coolest things about age is you get wiser and more mature. At least, I have.

Like the other day when I was absolutely furious...at nothing. And so, without bottling it in, I managed to avoid blowing up at anyone, went home and did some things that help me recover emotionally, and the foul mood...dissipated. Without harming anyone.

You do have a choice about expressing your anger. It was about 4 years ago that I realized I didn't have to have road rage, and that yelling and pounding my fist actually made me angrier...that there was a split second that I felt a flash of anger that I could give in to it and express it, or let it pass. Note: this is different than the anger/rage I felt a few days ago; a slow, burning anger is different than a momentary flash, and requires different techniques, which I have just learned. To the benefit of not only me, but everyone.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not really an angry person. I don't fly into rages very often even at the worst of times. But I've reached a new level of calm and outward peace, I think.

The other development (that prompted this post), came this morning.
Background:
I've realized that I'm a little more...exuberant than the normal person even in normal times. But now I'm newly-free of a horrible, demoralizing, discouraging relationship that I describe as an emotional wasteland, and I'm newly-transferred out of the worst job I've ever had in my life (yes, worse than McDonald's fry cook) into perhaps the best. It's not that the jobs are objectively good or bad, it's just that my last assignment didn't fit me at all, and conflicts with my boss as to what an officer should be and do. And this one plays to my strengths.

So I have reason to be cheerful and optimistic about life.

But yesterday afternoon was a pretty bad day, quite stressful. We got a last-minute tasking and I ended up staying an extra hour doing thankless work, most of which got cut at the last minute, anyway. Leaving late put me square in the worst of rush hour, and I nearly showed up late to pick up my son. I still don't know what I'm going to do with my son while I'm at work next week (he's out of school and summer camp doesn't start until the Monday after next). The problems just continued right up to this morning, and I showed up late today, and can't find some important paperwork.

And yet, as I walked in to work, I put a grin on my face and a spring in my step. And I realized: I may have good reasons to be in a good mood, but I could still choose to be in a bad mood based on the last 24 hours...and many people do. I...do not. And coming in hard on the heels of that thought was the notion that even when I don't have reasons to be happy, content, at peace, or in a good mood, I can still choose to be in a good mood. Sure, I've known that already...but it's like I just discovered a little button in my psyche/heart and pushed it, and found that it gave me conscious choice over my mood. I'm going to use it, and I'm going to use it to keep my mood positive, so that I can have a positive effect on those around me.

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posted by Nathan on 12:18 PM | Comments (2)

June 01, 2005

Controlling Speech on the Internet « Stuff Important to Me »

I got this in my email today, from Reid Fox of the Center for Individual Freedom (apparently a non-anti-Christian alternative to the liberal lapdog ACLU):

This Friday is the deadline for submitting comments about the Federal Election Commission’s draft rules for regulating political communications on the Internet.

As a long-time leader in the fight against increased government regulation of free speech, the Center for Individual Freedom will file comments criticizing the FEC’s proposed rules.

I thought you would be interested in a preview of the Center’s position.

Generally, despite what’s been reported in the MSM, these rules pose serious concerns for bloggers and others who use the Internet to publish news or their own comments on political matters.

The Internet is one of the last few arenas for pure, unregulated, unfiltered speech. It is as close as we can come in our modern society and culture to pronouncing our views from a soapbox on a street corner. These rules represent the government’s first foray into regulating online content. And once the government begins to regulate something, it is certain that the regulation will only become more aggressive, wide-reaching and restrictive over time. Even if you accept the FEC’s assertion that the proposed rules will not interfere with bloggers or other Internet content providers (which we do not), there is no guarantee that the FEC or court will not use these rules in the future as a precedent or jumping off point for a much broader regulatory regime in the future. Indeed, based on past experiences, it’s almost certain that someone will do just that.

In addition, with these rules, the FEC is trying to regulate a medium that by its very nature is beyond regulation. The Internet is constantly evolving. Who could have foreseen five years ago that RSS feeds, Moveable Type and other technologies would transform Americans’ ability to announce their views publicly. No one can imagine what the next generation of speech might look like. The FEC’s attempt to regulate the Internet can only end in a patchwork of rules sure to applied haphazardly and unfairly. Some web-publishers will be subject to the rules. Others won’t. But, come election time, everyone will need a lawyer to figure out what they can say and when they can say it.

Most importantly, the FEC’s rules make an even bigger hash of the so-called media exemption. (The exemption provides that media publishers won’t be subject to the speech, content and disclosure regulations in the current campaign finance laws and regulations.) Sure, the FEC concedes that such mainstream web-publication as Slate and Salon will now receive the media exemption. But that conclusion is about five years behind the times. Countless other websites, many with a “staff� of one, are reporting and publishing news and opinion via the web. It’s time for the FEC to recognize this fact and extend the media exemption to a much wider universe of publishers, including bloggers and other web-based media.

The Center’s submission will also address some of the countless other specific problems in the proposed rules.

At this stage, however, we believe it is critical that bloggers and other web publishers begin to once again raise awareness of the proposed rules and make their own voices heard.

If you’d like, please feel free to post or reproduce all or part of this message.

If you’d like to submit your own comments on the proposed rules to the FEC, you can e-mail them to internet@fec.gov. All comments must be submitted by June 3. One important note: comments to the FEC will only be considered if they include the full name and full address of the person submitting the comments.

Here's the thing. I tend to defend China on many of the charges made against that nation. China is no longer a Communist nation (although still run by a nominally Communist Party, to be sure). But one thing I absolutely castigate China for: not allowing free speech, to the point of controlling and censoring the internet.

Bottom Line (and you can quote me):
I'd really hate for us to be as bad as China on an issue of freedom.

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posted by Nathan on 09:59 AM | Comments (2)
» ResurrectionSong links with: You and the FEC
More Pics of Hawaiian Beauty « Stuff Important to Me »

Below the fold.

Indubitably work- and even girlfriend-safe.

Pics are pop-ups: click to see larger size. Guys, feel free to make them your desktop background!

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posted by Nathan on 09:51 AM | Comments (1)

May 30, 2005

What George Lucas Did Wrong: The (Semi-)Definitive Post « Stuff Important to Me »

A few very important points about telling a story:

1) Decide where the story starts and ends. It starts when you set up a problem, and ends when you resolve it. Anything else will leave your audience disappointed.

2) Know what to leave out. Leave in the exciting stuff, the important dialogue, the things that the audience must know in order to understand the story.

3) Have a fully-dimensional world/universe.

4) Stay consistent.

He did a great job (apparently with help) on these issues in Episodes IV-VI. Sort of. Star Wars: A New Hope was nearly perfect in and of itself, in that the story started with "The Princess is in Peril", and ended when the threat to her was defeated. And the whole trilogy did a fairly good job, in that the problem established at the beginning of the trilogy was that the Emperor had dissolved the Senate and begun ruling directly and ruthlessly, and the trilogy ended when the Emperor was killed.

But the problems started in The Empire Strikes Back, don't they? Suddenly, we have new issues introduced that weren't in the first episode: redemption from evil. It's rather grafted in. And the evil in Star Wars is in the senior military leadership and Darth Vader. I remember feeling a little miffed that Vader kowtowed so much to an Emperor who really didn't do much at all. If the Emperor was such a powerful and complete evil, why wasn't he in on any of the decisions made by the principals in the first two movies? As in, executing generals for failure, destroying Alderaan, etc? Again, the Emperor as a player seemed grafted into the story, to the stories detriment. Especially because the story ends when the Emperor is killed, right? His death alone doesn't settle the destructive capability of the Empire, right? They still have generals and governers and tax collecters throughout the galaxy, so all that happened is the top guy was killed. That leaves a power vacuum that any individual could step in and replace without skipping a beat. Sure, the logical #2 guy, Vader, had also been removed...but here's the first real problem with the series: the most interesting part of Return of the Jedi should be how the Empire was fully defeated and replaced. Maybe that could be handled in Episodes VII-IX, perhaps, but still: if the death alone of the Empire's leadership resolved the problem, then the Emperor should have been involved in the storyline from the very beginning, as the person obviously making decisions to put the Princess (and freedom) in peril.

Now, Mr. Lucas did a pretty good job on the other parts in the original trilogy. He particularly did a good job on "leaving out the stuff that should be left out" in the first movie: that movie is incredibly packed with action and information. I can't think of a single thing that could be left out without altering the storyline or obscuring character. Even the moment that Chewbacca scares the little droid as he's being escorted to the detention center helps establish his character more fully, off-setting the hindrance that he can't speak. Every character gets attention and opportunities to reveal themselves. This is absolutely important.

The back-story is also wonderful: Clone wars, a Jedi order wiped out, a father betrayed and killed, destiny, obscure powers, a Senate dissolved, a rebel Alliance fighting for freedom...awesome stuff.

Consistency is pretty good, for the most part. It starts going bad in Episode VI, however, when the revelation of Luke and Leia's relationship makes several earlier romantic moments become stomach-turning events, in retrospect (as has been oft-noted).

But all these things go wrong when Lucas goes back and tries to do the prequel trilogy.

First, it becomes painfully obvious that although Lucas claims to have all 9 stories fully written from the beginning, it's only a very broad, general, and indistinct outline. I know I've felt that I had a story completely planned out and written in my mind, but when I actually start writing, I end up writing myself into a corner. Lucas doesn't seem to let that stop him, to our chagrin and misfortune.

Know where your story starts and stops: With the prequels, Lucas does a fairly good job of starting and stopping. He's fully embraced the story arc of Anakin's/Vader's fall into the dark side, and he sticks with it.

Know What to Leave Out: But he totally screws up the "what to leave out part". The movies aren't short, but they don't really have that much happen, to tell the truth. Compared to the "every moment necessary" jam-packed excitement of Episode IV, the prequels don't even come close. The Clone Wars could have, and should have been the highlight of the prequels. The name certainly inspires something more imaginative than someone using a clone army, doesn't it? War is interesting, because victory and defeat doesn't necessarily go to the "good guys", and Lucas could have set up some interesting battles and campaigns in which we actually cared about the result, in which the result and aftermath could have been uncertain, thus raising tension. We knew the Jedi would get destroyed in the process of the decline of the Republic...so each battle could have been set up that way: we want the good guys to win, but would this battle be their initial defeat? Or the ultimate? Since we know the Republic is going to decline (but not actually fall until just before the start of Episode IV, right? More in the consistency section), but not when the decline is going to happen, Lucas could have played that tension into an awe-inspiring trilogy. And why did he decide to elide over the destruction of the Jedis in a handful of vignettes? Heck, after the 2nd one, the rest were absolutely useless in adding any information, and so should have been left out. The love scenes between Anakin and Amidala were useless (and horribly unmoving, as has been pointed out). It would have been much better to show 2-4 scenes of Anakin sacrificing something for Amidala and vice versa. Show the love, not tell it in a sappy and useless 'romantic' scene, or "I love you" dialoges. The Jedi Council discussions were boring and added little to the story, as well. To tell the truth, it's impossible to really point out all the mistakes in this category, because the prequel trilogies are simply badly-written, so nearly everything should have been left out. Let me simply say that the most interesting parts of the prequel should have been the Clone Wars, the destruction of the Jedi, the decline of a once-noble Republic, and the fall of Vader, in that order. Lucas reverses that order, again, to our viewing misfortune. I would have made the first movie an action-packed adventure focusing on the clone wars and Anakin as a young man with top-notch piloting skills and how that resulted in his invitation to be trained as a Jedi (starting his training as a young man being the fatal flaw that results in his flaw, reinforcing why training Luke as a young man seems so risky). Then the 2nd movie could have been all about Anakin's problems in training, with several Jedi missions nearly failing because of his weaknesses, and maybe the first few Jedi being killed (leaving a dark ending appropriate for the end of a 2nd Act, just like The Empire Strikes Back). Then the 3rd movie would have dealt with the process of Anakin becoming Vader...maybe out of his frustration from failing to grasp what it is to be Jedi? ...or by seeing the Jedi losing and wanting to be on the winning side? I guess I can see it was a gutsy play by Lucas to have Anakin's fall be out of a distorted love (and that's a good and important lesson), but it is at odds with the other messages of the trilogy, so I think it should have been handled differently.

Fully Dimensional Universe/Backstory: This is what made the original trilogy. Again: Clone wars, a Jedi order wiped out, a father betrayed and killed, destiny, obscure powers, a Senate dissolved, a rebel Alliance fighting for freedom... These capture the imagination, demand in-depth storytelling. But when Lucas went back to tell these stories, not only did he not do them justice (they were all less compelling than they originally sounded), but he doesn't bother to go farther back with his universe. If you watch the prequel trilogy, nothing comes before. Why didn't he show more about the parts of the Galaxy not under full Republic control? Why didn't he hint about how the Jedi were established? Or how they became an integral part of the Republic? Or how the Republic was established? Or tell us more about how Jedi are discovered and trained? Or more about what function they actually perform? Are they warriors? Secret Agents? Generals? Advisors? They seem to be all of these things, and more...and yet he never shows them doing any of these things all that successfully (well, except maybe as a secret agents), so I'm left with wondering exactly why the Jedi hold such an important position. How did the rebels get their start? How did they develop all their own weaponry? Exactly how oppressive was the Empire? To tell the truth, it's almost as if Lucas never once considered the actual history of his galaxy; it's almost as if the galactic order sprung into being, whole-cloth, just in time for Anakin to show up. It almost makes me think that the best parts of the Star Wars story came from Alan Dean Foster (who ghost-wrote the original Star Wars novel), and Lucas lacked the imagination to that sort of thinking on his own.

Consistency: Whew, I could write a novel-length section on this issue. Metachlorians? Leia is Luke's sister? Obi-wan ages twice as fast as everyone else in the story? Most of the big issues have been covered more ably by others. But here's a few I haven't seen other people mention: If the Jedi are such a big deal, known throughout the galaxy, how come everyone else is so absolutely disdainful and disbelieving of the force and the Jedi just 20 years later? And didn't Episode IV start with Palpatine dissolving the Senate and declaring himself "Emperor"? How does that fit with Amidala's pronouncement of the Empire in Episode III?
If Anakin is such the prodigy in the Force, why did he not seem to advance in power at all from the end of Episode III to the beginning of Episode IV? If Obi-Wan Kenobi is such a sub-par Jedi, how come he is the one that survives? Would it have hurt the story at all for Anakin to have turned to the dark side in a quest for power, rather than respect? The way Lucas sets up the prequels, it makes it look like Obi-Wan's beating Anakin was a lucky accident. (And the last-minute mention of "holding the high ground" is ridiculous; just another thing that Lucas pulled out of his butt at the last minute like the 'metachlorians'.*)
I've discovered that the Jedi and their powers were originally remarkably similar to the "JiangHu" swordsmen/adventurers from Chinese stories and legends. As in, some guys have some special powers. Why they have these powers isn't really explained, except they've gone through some special training. Some use these powers for good, some for evil. You can change from one to the other, depending on your character. They work with the governmental authorities, but aren't really a part of the government. In fact, the JiangHu swordsmen of China are just like our comic-book superheros. And that's the way I thought Lucas originally presented them. So to me, it is a violation of consistency to make them be an official part of the government. It also makes them far less interesting and does much to make the prequels far less compelling. Had he continued to treat them as honorable but quasi-respectable vigilantes, the story of Anakin's fall to become Vader would have been far more interesting.
Would it have killed Lucas to find a better way to reinforce Obi-Wan's character than to just say, "How uncivilized" about blasters? How about showing us how a light-saber is more civilized, somehow...maybe by showing that despite their power, they are highly inaccurate, spray-n-pray weapons?**

If Obi-Wan Kenobi was hiding out on a planet (okay, it's been pointed out numerous times that it would be dumb for him to continue to use the same last name...unless "Kenobi" is the galactic equivalent of "Smith" or something), would he really have continued to wear the official Jedi uniform? For twenty years? And why, exactly, would the Jedi Uniform be so wonderfully appropriate for a desert environment? Meaning: flowing robes that help block the sun and enhance the cooling effect of perspiration. Deciding to make the official Jedi uniform the same as what Obi-Wan wore on Tattoine was a stupid choice from a consistency viewpoint.

I'm going to have to add more to this later.

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posted by Nathan on 02:03 PM | Comments (8)
» Mudville Gazette links with: Dawn Patrol, A bit Differently From Now On
» IndustrialBlog links with: Take another crack at it, George

May 25, 2005

Flammable Ice That Doesn't Melt « Stuff Important to Me »

Cool stuff.

Excerpt:

Methane hydrate was discovered only a few decades ago, and little research has been done on it until recently. By some estimates, the energy locked up in methane hydrate deposits is more than twice the global reserves of all conventional gas, oil, and coal deposits combined. But no one has yet figured out how to pull out the gas inexpensively, and no one knows how much is actually recoverable.

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posted by Nathan on 01:56 PM | Comments (0)

May 20, 2005

As Mickey Kaus is fond of pointing out, if you have unfortunate news, you wait until Friday afternoon to release it, so that it gets missed over the weekend.

With that in mind, I'd like to announce that I'm back. I've got a number of things to blog, and I'll be doing it over the weekend. Which you may not see until Monday, if ever (because you've given up on me).

A few points:
My hit totals have remained in the high 200s, with a 400+ day about 10 days after my hiatus started. That means you guys seem to like me more when I don't blog than when I do. That doesn't exactly encourage me.* The bulk of my hits seem to be search engines, particularly for the Mentos' Bird commercial. Zombyboy generally finds the commercials hard to stomach; I would say that's appropriate, since I find the candy hard to stomach...

The blogging hiatus has made a difference to me; I'm not sure yet exactly how that will impact my blogging in general. I may end up going in a different direction with the blog, or maybe more of the same (piled higher and deeper!), particularly focusing on responsibility and secular reasons for morality. We'll see.

My 37th birthday is in the month of May. I also passed 100k hits. I think I might be the only blogger who can succeed in ensuring those two events did not increase my traffic/linkage one whit. Everyone's gotta have a talent, I guess; Inability to Capitalize is apparently mine. Which is why I'm posting this at what would be late afternoon for the East Coast.

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posted by Nathan on 11:58 AM | Comments (4)

May 02, 2005

April 30, 2005

More Hawaii Women « Stuff Important to Me »

More pictures of Hawaii women below the fold. These are from my near-prosumer-level camera, so the results are better.

I've found the secret to being able to take pictures is confidence arising from a good cover story. I've decided that I am trying to figure out how to use various functions of the camera, if anyone asks. Having a plausible story now, I can take pictures without feeling like a perv, and so I don't act furtive, and so no one seems to think a think about it now.

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posted by Nathan on 01:06 PM | Comments (5)

April 27, 2005

Blowing My Own Horn « Stuff Important to Me »

You know, I can't really believe this didn't get more attention at the time.

I guess few of my regular readers are Mentos fans...?

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posted by Nathan on 08:48 PM | Comments (0)
Bad Pics of Hawaii Females « Stuff Important to Me »

Please note: attractive. Not necessarily gorgeous or young. Okay?

Ground rules laid down, some initial attempts are below the fold:

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posted by Nathan on 06:34 PM | Comments (5)

April 26, 2005

News Flash: Sometimes I Can Be Stupid « Stuff Important to Me »

Yeah, I know: the mind boggles, eh?

What I'm speaking of, specifically, is that I went ahead and purchased a second laptop.

Why? Why, why, WHY?

That's a good question. I also have a good answer.

I'm stuck in a hotel room right now with a 5-year-old son. At the time I decided to make the purchase, I didn't know when that situation might come to a close; possibly up to 30 days.

The computer is a significant tool in my household. Blogging, contact with important friends/family, listening to music, playing games. Not only were my son and I both wanting to use the laptop at the same time, his favorite game wouldn't run on my laptop.

I debated with myself for about a day: should I buy a really good laptop with decent memory (100GB/512MB), DVD-burner, 4+GHz processor? Or a good desktop with 200GB, video card (for hard-core gaming), Media-card reader (useful with my camera), DVD-burner...? Or just a cheap laptop so I can get online at the same time my son uses my old laptop?

I bought my Dell last year. 40GB Hard Drive, DVDplayer (not burner), CD burner, 2.2GHz Celeron processor, 256MB RAM, total of $750. But I bought the cheap battery and only get about 45 minutes (or less!) when not plugged in. That makes it useless on airplanes, and limits its usefulness at coffee shops. It also gets really hot. Not to mention the afore-mentioned problem of not playing Brady's favorite game (Rogue Squadron 3D). Wireless internet through a PCMCIA card.

If I bought the better laptop, well, it would be more expensive, first of all. And while it might be nice to have the DVD burner, I have a burner on my desktop that's currently in storage...I don't have any DVDs to burn at this point, so it would kind of be a waste of money. If the desktop burner breaks, I could replace it for only about $100 or so... The battery life wouldn't go past 2 hours...unless I get a Centrino. But the salesman said that the Centrino gets most of its extended battery life by being a weak/slow processor.

If I bought the desktop, well, I'd have spent close to $1000 and still not solved my 45-minute-max battery-life problem. Not to mention paying for the unnecessary DVD burner. On the other hand, it would handle Brady's game, guaranteed.

So I decided to go with a Toshiba. It had a nice, bright 15" screen, 80GB harddrive, internal wireless internet capability, but just a 1.3GHz Celeron processor and 256MB RAM, Lithium battery (for 2 hours battery life). I'd also heard that Toshiba has the highest owner satisfaction. DVD-ROM and CD Burner. All for $599.

Well, after using it for a week, I can see why. And even though the laptop wasn't strictly necessary, I'm glad I got it.

The wireless function works better than the PCMCIA on my other laptop. The keyboard is smooth and easy to type. The touchpad is smoother and more accurate. The screen can be seen in sunlight more easily. Brady's favorite game works fine on it. It's got some nice little programs by Toshiba that help you optimize it for your preferences. Both Brady and I can keep busy and non-bored at the same time. It was absolutely worth it.

Like I said, I can be stupid sometimes. This time it seems to be sticking.

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posted by Nathan on 08:22 PM | Comments (2)

April 21, 2005

I just met with my new commander today. It's an interesting situation, in which my operational commander is different than my administrative commander.

Today was the administrative.

And the cool part was: Despite outranking me and having at least 5 years more experience as an officer, I took control of the conversation and directed it in the direction I wanted it to go.

And I'm not sure he even realized it.

My progression toward a mastery of bureaucracy marches onward!

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posted by Nathan on 04:03 PM | Comments (3)

April 20, 2005

Occupations « Stuff Important to Me »

I've been tagged.

I'm slow, but I generally get around to stuff, eventually. So here goes.

Immediately following there is a list of different occupations. You must select at least 5 of them (feel free to select more). You may add more if you like to your list before you pass it on (after you select 5 of the items as it was passed to you). Each one begins with "If I could be..." Of the 5 you selected, you are to finish each phrase with what you would do as a member of that profession. For example, if the selected occupation was "pirate" you might take the phrase "If I could be a pirate..." and add to it "I would sail the 7 Seas, dating lasses from around the worlde." See how easy that is? Here's the list:

If I could be a scientist...

If I could be a farmer...

If I could be a musician...

If I could be a doctor...

If I could be a painter...

If I could be a gardener...

If I could be a missionary...

If I could be a chef...

If I could be an architect...

If I could be a linguist...

If I could be a psychologist...

If I could be a librarian...

If I could be an athlete...

If I could be a lawyer...

If I could be an innkeeper...

If I could be a professor...

If I could be a writer...

If I could be a llama-rider...

If I could be a bonnie pirate...

If I could be an astronaut...

If I could be a radio talk show host...

If I could be a congressional staffer...

If I could be an entrepreneur ...

If I could be a frontiersman...

If I could be a swashbuckler...

So, okay: skipping the obvious and semi-obscene ("If I could be a linguist, I'd be very cunning" and "If I could be a missionary, I'd assume the position whenever possible"), I guess I'm left with:

If I could be a librarian, I'd library in the morning, I'd library in the evening, all over this tow-own! (sing it with me!)

If I could be an innkeeper, I'd make sure I was known for having the best and widest selection of fine, dark beers in the entire area. Plus good water (to help avoid hangovers and clear the palate) and hearty breakfasts (to chase away the remnants of hangovers). So I guess I'd have to have a package deal that includes renting the room for the night and including a 12-pack of your favorite brew, plus a big breakfast in the morning. All for $100, or so.

If I could be a musician, I'd offer up mp3s of my music for free and let people donate to keep me in enough money to keep making music.

Um, I don't really have anyone I feel like tagging with this meme, but if you want to give your own response, feel free to do so in the comments, or link back to this post.

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posted by Nathan on 12:56 PM | Comments (0)

April 13, 2005

Like Western Novels? « Stuff Important to Me »

Then go tell Wadcutter what you like.

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posted by Nathan on 11:11 AM | Comments (2)

April 05, 2005

Public Service Announcement, Leaving On A Jet Plane Edition « Stuff Important to Me »

For those of you who have it, my work address is no longer in service. I'll let you know when my new one comes on line.

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posted by Nathan on 10:26 AM | Comments (0)

April 04, 2005

Back Safely « Stuff Important to Me »

I just wanted everyone to know: the first leg of my "Farewell Tour" has been completed successfully and safely. I'm back home and none the worse for wear from my 16-hour driving marathon.

...I love my car! More on everything later. Pictures will not be up until this evening.

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posted by Nathan on 06:32 AM | Comments (1)

March 24, 2005

New Portable Device « Stuff Important to Me »

Right now I'm charging and setting up my new Rio Karma 20GB mp3 player.

Nope, it's not an iPod. I hope Zombyboy still lets me go to the RMBB 4.0 on 2 April...

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posted by Nathan on 05:32 AM | Comments (0)

March 22, 2005

Post I Will Delete Later « Stuff Important to Me »

For those who care, I'm at home right now, watching the movers pack up my stuff. I've been busy getting ready the last few days, sorting and organizing. Since most of the stuff is remaining with the house and my eventual ex-wife, I had to separate it from the rest. That meant getting everything into two rooms fairly close to the door. I've been working pretty hard to get that done; it looks like I was successful.

The hardest part is all those, "Oh, my gosh! I can't believe I nearly forgot that!" moments...

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posted by Nathan on 11:09 AM | Comments (4)

March 21, 2005

Caillou: Evil Demon-Spawn « Stuff Important to Me »

I'm way down on the list for I hate Caillou.

Maybe it would be more accurate to say I detest Caillou. I also loathe Caillou. He's lucky he's a cartoon character, because if he were real, I'd probably be plotting ways to slap the crap out of Caillou. Knock some sense into Caillou, as it were. Knock the whine out of Caillou.

That should be enough for now...

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posted by Nathan on 09:06 PM | Comments (5)
Just So You Know... « Stuff Important to Me »

I'm right about everything.*

You can rest easy now, knowing that I am willing to share my rightness with you in the form of this blog. You can stop thinking for yourself now.

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posted by Nathan on 06:00 AM | Comments (2)

March 16, 2005

An Attractive Woman « Stuff Important to Me »

For no particular reason, below the fold you will find a picture of an attractive woman.

I'll probably delete the post after my conscience kicks in.

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posted by Nathan on 06:12 AM | Comments (2)
I'm the Karate Champ « Stuff Important to Me »

At 11:44pm last night, I was the winning bidder as the auction closed for a Karate Champ stand-up arcade game in excellent working condition.

Woot!

You don't remember which game that is? Well, here are some pictures:
3c_1_b.JPG

c4_1_b.JPG

Hey, does this make me a culture blog now? Like these guys...? So that's what it feels like...I feel so...soiled.

More below the fold...

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posted by Nathan on 06:07 AM | Comments (1)

March 15, 2005

Interesting Test « Stuff Important to Me »

Saw this via Anywhere But Here (Gradualdazzle).

I was:


Linguistic 38

Mathematics 43

Visual/Spatial 29

Body/Kinesthetic 32

Naturalistic 31

Music 49

Interpersonal 33

Intrapersonal 34

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posted by Nathan on 11:27 PM | Comments (2)
» Jeremy-Gilby-dot-com links with: Learning Inventory
Ecology and Conservation « Stuff Important to Me »

One thing the MSM has a hard time wrapping its mind around is that quite a number of conservatives do care about the environment as much or more than most liberals.

Sure, we don't set fire to SUVs or anything, but when you think about it, it makes sense:
Liberals tend to live in cities, and so are separated from nature; many are extremely wealthy (limousine liberals), fly jets (extremely wasteful on fossil fuels) and have big houses that they heat and cool at great expense, etc, etc.
Whereas many Conservatives tend to live in rural areas (the famed Red State/County distribution), the gun nuts love to go hunting, and conservatives just plain hate wasting money, especially on gas and heating/cooling.

Okay, that's admittedly not a very rigorous set of arguments. There are probably more exceptions than rules in that mess of garbage. So let me start again:

I like nature, hate waste, and want to make sure the world doesn't get ruined by pollution and man's interference.

The Kyoto Pact is ridiculous on so many levels. It doesn't even begin to do what it says it will do (reduce greenhouse emissions) because it puts no restrictions on developing nations. Its real goal is to hamstring the wealthy nations...that would actually result in the world being dirtier, because manufacturing would move even more rapidly into places like China, India, Malaysia, and Indonesia, where the emission standards would be lax. What motivation would the US then have to develop cleaner manufacturing processes?
The biggest source of man-made greenhouse gasses is already the developing nation, including places like China...have you ever visited any of their population centers? They all have horrible pollution. Most Chinese people never see a sunset, because pollution hides the sun before it can approach the horizon! Indonesia is covered with soot and smog most of the year because they are burning of acres and acres of forests, and their cooking fires are pretty bad, too, from what I hear. Ocean navigation near Indonesia has actually gotten hazardous at times, the smog drifting out over the littoral areas has gotten so bad.
That doesn't even begin to address that volcanoes pump so much "pollutive" and greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere that all man-made sources nearly merge in with the baseline in comparison.

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posted by Nathan on 06:07 AM | Comments (1)

March 14, 2005

A Good Summary of Why I Always Loathed Bill Romanowski « Stuff Important to Me »

He was always a selfish, spoiled jerk.

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posted by Nathan on 03:55 PM | Comments (0)
Just Don't Imply I'm Stupid « Stuff Important to Me »

Don't ask, just don't do it.

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posted by Nathan on 12:59 PM | Comments (0)

March 11, 2005

New Condominium « Stuff Important to Me »

Well, it looks like I got my second choice:

2311495.jpg

The owner accepted my bid; now all I gotta do is get final approval for financing. It shouldn't be a problem, but I'll admit I won't rest easy until we've made it through a few more steps, including a professional inspection!

The location is great in a lot of ways: near to my work (within 3 miles), a few blocks from great restaurants and what I consider the best mall + shopping center in Hawaii.

The complex is both nice and safe, with good security patrol and a recreation area and pool in good condition. The buildings seem well-maintained, and I think I can fix up the condo to look pretty nice.

It's pretty tiny, though, at just 850+ square feet. Yikes! But that's Hawaii...

In many ways, unless the inspection reveals some significant problems, I think the property was underpriced.

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posted by Nathan on 06:06 AM | Comments (0)

March 10, 2005

Howdy, Ya'll! I'm Back! « Stuff Important to Me »

I was out of town. I didn't give you a warning, because...well, I just didn't.

I went to Hawaii for about 34 hours to look at condominiums. I think I found a decent one I can live with for a price I can afford. Now we'll see if this bid is accepted.

The other one fell through, obviously. The frustrating part is that it had no offers for 40+ days. The day I put in an offer, so does someone else. If I'd put in my offer a week earlier, they wouldn't have had another choice to consider. And it wasn't the amount of the offer that made the difference. It's that the other buyer had a down payment, and I have to do 100% financing. I'm pre-qualified for much higher than the house I want to buy, so there's little risk that the loan wouldn't be approved...but the seller didn't want to even take that small risk.

There's no other offer on this condominium, so I'm hoping it won't get similarly scuttled.

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posted by Nathan on 05:57 AM | Comments (1)

March 04, 2005

Not Exactly a "Tiger in Your Tank" « Stuff Important to Me »

But rather, a Cat on a Hot (Tin) Roof?.

She had driven about 10 miles with the cat on top of the car, and didn't even notice the feline when she stopped for gas.

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posted by Nathan on 08:30 AM | Comments (0)
New Car, New House... « Stuff Important to Me »

I've currently opened negotiations to purchase this townhome in Hawaii.

Hey, ya'll, I don't know who thought it was cute to outbid me on the last one, but the owner actually fell for "Amanda Huggenkiss" and rejected my bid, so please don't play any jokes like that this time, okay?

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posted by Nathan on 06:11 AM | Comments (0)
Cool Stuff « Stuff Important to Me »

Rock.

I'm a little frustrated, though, because I wanted to do a "Rock, Paper, Scissors" thing, but I can't seem to get a URL for the specific article. So, look at the one about concrete, then there's one about a guy who makes houses out of paper, and I guess all of 'em are pretty cool...

...except that I'm sure a few weeks or months from now they won't even have this ad up, or they will have changed to make the "Rock" appellation completely obselete...

I gotta tell ya, the choices we bloggers face in trying to give you a good product are grueling. You should hit my tip jar to say thanks, you know.

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posted by Nathan on 05:42 AM | Comments (1)

March 01, 2005

Prayer Request « Stuff Important to Me »

Please remember my friend and regular socio-political sparring partner, Jo, in your prayers. She's having some medical difficulties and has spent the last two nights in urgent care.

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posted by Nathan on 09:26 AM | Comments (0)
Eager Jimmy Reviews Fellowship of the Ring (UPDATED) « Stuff Important to Me »

The best review ever. Ever.

UPDATE: Well, the Artist Formely Known as Juan Gato (now Farm Accident Digest) apparently pulled the post. Which is too bad, because it was funny. He said it would only be up for 30 minutes, but I assumed he meant the link from his main page, not the actual review itself. So I didn't copy the text, as I should have. Alas!

Here's the link to the main Eager Jimmy page of movie reviews.

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posted by Nathan on 09:22 AM | Comments (1)

February 28, 2005

The Courage To Live « Stuff Important to Me »

In Courage and Courageous Choices, I discussed an interesting book whose main purpose is to teach parents how to raise kids to keep themselves safe.

A big part of the book is teaching children to make courageous choices. The rationalization is that people who do courageous things are choosing to overcome fear and help someone else out. We don't help when we feel panic and fear for ourselves. Turning the situation into a child protecting the parents by keeping themselves safe allows the child to not be as afraid for themselves, and theoretically not paralyzed by that fear. I didn't hammer that aspect much, as there was a little too much to consider to cover everything in one post. I'm sure I'll hit this subject again.

I touched upon the courage involved in overcoming adversity, and living with pain, disfigurement, and discomfort. The reason I did discuss that is due to an off-line discussion I was having with a friend. The friend made some good points in defense of Oregon's Assisted Suicide Law, but in the end, I don't think the government, the medical profession, or society should take even the first step toward legitimizing suicide. Suicide is an unfortunate choice that someone should be able to choose, I guess...but it should be discouraged. As a society, we should be encouraging and teaching courage in the face of the worst pain and disappointment and despair. You only lose when you stop trying.

I was perhaps more emphatic in that view than normal, having just read this book (linked in the previous post) on teaching children to be courageous. It just seems to me that if we attempt to teach our children to be courageous (and we should, and I am), that it is hypocritical to encourage cowardice in other situations. No matter how hopeless a health situation might seem, medical miracles do occur. I've seen so many people given 6 weeks to live that last 6 months or more...euthanasia for the point of avoiding pain would have deprived them and their families of months of living together. Maybe at some point, the willful endurance of pain leads to some greater understanding of life? But if you assist in a suicide, then you permanently end any such chance, don't you?

Imagine my surprise to see Zombyboy and some of his commenters expressing pretty much the same thing.

And something else just occurred to me:
Depression is one of the stages of death, correct? But those stages end with "acceptance". Which stage would someone most likely beg for euthanasia? Right: Depression. So euthenasia proponents would prefer to deny people their chance at acceptance of their death. That strikes me as cruel, albeit on an emotional level rather than physical.

Simply put: The main purpose of life is not to avoid pain. That being the case, there is no reason to adopt that attitude at the last second, at the point death is near.

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posted by Nathan on 02:35 PM | Comments (0)

February 25, 2005

Courage and Courageous Choices « Stuff Important to Me »

I just started reading the book, Raising Kids Who Can Protect Themselves, by Debbie and Mike Gardner.

It is truly enjoyable to read a book that alters your attitudes and perceptions within the first few pages. I can't wait to keep reading through the whole book (although I lack much time to do so at the rate I wish). I may read it through a second time.

In some aspects, it didn't really change my philosophy of raising kids at all. Things like, "Reward the behavior you want to see"...

But the revelation for me was that they simplify safe and dangerous situations on the basis of behavior:

Everyone should be golden, i.e., nice, friendly, living by the golden rule.
But if someone makes you feel creepy and looks like they might invade your personal space, you have the right and the responsibility to get orange (agressive, or rude) with them: look them in the eye, tell them to leave, back away to increase your space. If the person presses the issue, they are now acting red (intending to hurt, angry), and you have the right and responsibility to act red to keep yourself safe: point your finger at them like a gun, use profanity, run. If that person tries to grab you, or silence you, or otherwise enters your personal space, you strike at their wind before they can grab yours.

See, my wife thinks I'm too naive and soft, and maybe she's right. I always want to be golden, and I want my children to be golden with people. And I think my wife is orange and red too often, too suspicious of anyone and everything.

I haven't known how to teach my kids to be kind and nice, but to stay safe, and I didn't want them to never trust anyone like my wife wants to. This book kind of shows me the way to teach my kids to act golden, but to listen to their instinct on when to act orange to keep themselves safe...and anyone, peer or adult, who acts red in the face of your child's self-preservation reaction of orange is probably intending harm, justifying your child to act red to keep themselves safe.

Okay, that's way simplistic. Go read the book.

However, the main thing I wanted to get at was they want you to teach your children to have the attitude: "No matter what happens, I have the ability to figure out a way to be okay." The alternative, they say, is actually telling your kids: "I don't trust you or your judgment." The point is to teach your children to act with courage, not with fear. If they do, they probably will be okay. They will react to adversity with strength and optimism. And that will lead to confidence that increases the chance for success and safety in everything.

I think you can probably see immediately that there is a socio-political lesson to be learned here.

There is a political party that says, "I don't trust you to make decisions for yourself. If we don't provide, you won't be okay." There is another political party that says, "I trust you to work through your problems. There may be discomforts, and you may fail, but I think you can succeed if you keep trying."

The attitude of the first party encourages weakness and dependence and unhappiness and fear. They think that pain/discomfort is to be avoided. They think that being in a bad situation means you will most likely remain in that bad situation unless you get help.

The attitude of the second party encourages strength, independence, optimism, self-confidence, happiness, and peace. They think that pain/discomfort is part of the learning process, and necessary signals to tell you when you are doing something wrong. They think that if you find yourself in a bad situation, at most you may need some advice to get out of it more smoothly, but most of the time getting help just prevents you from learning why you ended up there in the first place.

I tend to be an optimistic person, but I can tell you that there are some things that I was afraid of: a chemical attack that leaves you with a lifetime of aftereffects/damage. Paralysis. Scarring. Having one of my children be sexually abused or raped.

Of course, I still don't want any of those things to happen, but now I can see that all it takes is a tiny change of attitude to dispel the fear: "No matter what happens, I will figure out a way to be okay."

If my daughter gets pregnant, I don't want her to feel she has to hide it from me, or get an abortion. I want her to tell me: "Daddy, I will figure out a way to be okay." With that attitude, I will certainly help her to make sure there are no permanent crippling experiences. She might miss a senior prom, but her experiences as a teen, unwed mother would be different, not worse. If my son gets in a car accident because he was drag racing and loses an arm, I would want him to face life with courage and say, "I will figure out a way to be okay, Dad." That's taking responsibility for your actions and taking ownership of the situation you find yourself, whether it was your actions or someone else's that put you there.

There are many types of pain in the world. There are many ways to get hurt. Some pain is chronic, and it strikes people who we think don't deserve it. Other people live lives of privilege.

I've been told I'm privileged. And if someone looked at my current situation, that might be easy to assume. It would ignore the pain and difficulty and struggle I've already been through in life, and that I learned from it.

If at any point I had given up, I would never have made it here. If at any point my Mom had decided another pregnancy was too difficult, I wouldn't have ended up here to write this. Courage always wins, cowardice always loses. I want my children to face life with courage, not cowardice. I never want them to assume that the answer to a problem should be someone's death. I never want them to think that the best answer to difficulty is to end the pain, whether through chemicals, escape, or suicide.

This book is the first step of teaching them that. And I will.

I once worried a little bit about letting my son watch the Power Rangers, but went ahead with it, deciding that if there were any problems arising from it, I could notice it and take care of it if necessary. Now I can see that silly little karate show is going to be a big key to teaching my children to have courage in life. I have the key I need to unlock the chains that bind happiness.

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posted by Nathan on 01:33 PM | Comments (5)

February 16, 2005

Trivial Trivia « Stuff Important to Me »

Stolen from Tony.

What’s your favorite kind of cookie? Tennessee Cookies (also known as No-Bake cookies, Mississippi Mud cookies: lots of chocolate, lots of sugar, lots of oatmeal...)

Who is America’s most overrated actor? Nicholas Cage

Name a guilty pleasure. Jagged Alliance 2.

“Scrubs” or “Everybody Loves Raymond”? Never watched either one.

Name two things you can’t live without. Buffalo Wings and Iced Tea.

Your first pet’s name + your mother’s maiden name = your porn star name. —- Inky Green

What song are you listening to right now? Nothing, strangely. I used to always have music playing...

Name your celebrity crush. I can't think of one right now.

Favorite punchline from a joke. “What do you mean 'we', white man?”

Who do you want to pass this meme off to? Jeremy or Zombyboy or SaaM. I think any of them might be entertaining with it. Except that we already know Zombie is listening to Mark Lanegan.

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posted by Nathan on 08:41 PM | Comments (2)
» Jeremy-Gilby-dot-com links with: Trivits
» resurrectionsong links with: Blame Nathan

February 15, 2005

Noooooooo!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! « Stuff Important to Me »

Oh, well. Movies aren't really worth a crap these days, anyway...

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posted by Nathan on 10:30 AM | Comments (2)

February 13, 2005

I Want This « Stuff Important to Me »

Spherical Watchdog.*

Read More "I Want This" »

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posted by Nathan on 07:45 PM | Comments (1)

February 09, 2005

Harnessing the Power of The Blog « Stuff Important to Me »

eBay sucks. Does anyone want to sell me a Playstation 2 system in perfect working order? If so, can you throw in Grand Theft Auto: Vice City? And maybe Madden 2005?

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posted by Nathan on 11:46 AM | Comments (4)
Just Sent To My (Acting) Flight Commander « Stuff Important to Me »
I feel like I started waking up yesterday...

What do I mean?
Well, last summer I was stressed out around home, which stressed me out at work, which stressed me out at home and in general. You remember.
Even after the worst time, and after I talked to Capt N about it, I was still always on the edge of stressed-out, because I was trying to do more and more and not really catching up. I was just getting caught up on everything at home when we moved buildings.
I knew that I was exhausted from the move, 13 days straight with all the responsibilities I had at home left me absolutely spent.
I had a hard time recovering...Looking back, I think it’s because we went right into the holiday season when no one was here, so we were actually quite busy every day. I still am not sure why our business never slowed down at all. (I was disappointed we didn’t get more “holiday” manning, but shoot! We were too busy to get any more!)
Then right after the new year I had a few briefs to do and was trying to get caught up on out-processing at the same time. Feeling behind on everything tired me out.
At the same time, I was trying to potty-train my daughter with no help. That’s harder than it sounds.
Soon after, we actually sign the paperwork for divorce. I take leave to go on vacation, but with driving so far only to get the 3rd degree from her relatives, well, I didn’t get much rest. Especially since even though there were so many adults in the house, *I* was the one mainly dealing with the kids and resolving disputes, playing with them, etc., to include my very rambunctious AD/HD neice (I don’t get it...I just don’t get how so much non-parenting can go unnoticed by anyone but me).
Last weekend I drove down to Portland and back. It was a nice time, but no ‘down’ time.
Through all this, I rarely get more than 5.5 hours of sleep each night during the week, and my “catching up” nights are never more than 8. At least two nights a week I feel I am forced to choose between being physically exhausted or emotionally unrefreshed.

Going through this last weekend I was finally able to get some rest. And I’m finally getting recovered. I think I can do a better job of staying on task and helping people out now. On that scale of likelihood of a major stress-related illness, I think my rating for the last year is probably something above 500. Thank goodness I’ve been pretty healthy.

Did I sound too whiny? She was pretty much up to speed on all the issues, so if I seem too vague in spots, it's because I'm eliding over ground already covered.

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posted by Nathan on 08:07 AM | Comments (4)

February 08, 2005

My Thoughts on the GoDaddy Commercial « Stuff Important to Me »

Because I know you want to hear them.

Offensive? No. Unfunny? Yes.

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posted by Nathan on 06:07 AM | Comments (2)

January 26, 2005

I'm Not Sure I Get This « Stuff Important to Me »

Someone linked my site here. But at first glance (and I didn't have time for more at home, and the site is blocked at work), I could really tell if it was positive, negative, or neutral.

Anyone?

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posted by Nathan on 10:03 AM | Comments (3)

January 24, 2005

I'm Being Published, Now « Stuff Important to Me »

Sort of. But not for cash, or any other remuneration, alas!

I left comments on IMDB regarding a few Chinese movies. I feel a little like Navin Johnson looking at his name in the phonebook and saying "I'm somebody now!", but what the heck:

I pan Butterfly Sword. Mediocre film that could easily have been much better.

I pan East is Red. Horrible movie.

I guardedly recommend Iceman Cometh. If you like this sort of thing, you'll really like this one. I do like this sort of thing (fist/leg-oriented martial arts, restrained use of wires, positive addition of both humor and serious elements plot elements).

I also strongly recommend So Close. A good James Bond-ish techno action flick with three quite-attractive women. Order it from Blockbuster.com as soon as you can work it into your cue (no idea if it is available through Netflix)

I did overly limit myself by trying not to include spoilers. For instance, there is an elevator scene in So Close when Karen Mok nabs some bad guys that needs to be seen to be believed. The final scene of that fight is destined to be an oft-imitated or referenced classic, in my opinion.

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posted by Nathan on 05:52 PM | Comments (3)

January 23, 2005

Thoughts While Watching AMC During AFC Championship Commercials « Stuff Important to Me »

It occurs to me that Major League is pretty much both the first and the last movie that I liked Wesley Snipes in.

My biggest problem with Wesley Snipes is that he has an arrogance that shines through in every character he plays. I don't like that, and I think it destroys any credibility he has as an actor. This is an aspect he shares with Nicholas Cage, whose personality shines through in every character he plays. Typecasting of an emotionless, wooden alcoholic should not have given Mr. Cage an Oscar. The fact that he got one was yet another reason I stopped caring at all about Hollywood opinions and preferences.

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posted by Nathan on 06:14 PM | Comments (2)

January 22, 2005

Well, Whaddya Think? « Stuff Important to Me »

So I've been back for about 3 hours, and I couldn't wait to get all the "coming home" errands and crap done so I could crack open a specialty dark beer. I've had nothing like that for over a week, and I'm apparently in bad shape.

I don't think I'm an alcoholic, exactly, because I don't like drinking more than 2 (the inebriation of more than 2 in a short time span reduces your ability to taste, and so is not worth it to me), and I could care less about the other, stronger liquors in the house (including Jim Beam).

So what do you call this addiction of mine?

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posted by Nathan on 05:35 PM | Comments (7)

January 18, 2005

Watches and Faith « Stuff Important to Me »

I was reading nighttime devotions with my kids, and the subject was based on the Bible verses John 8:31,32: Jesus said, "If you continue in My Word...you will know the truth."

The story was of a man who thought he had plenty of time to make the train, only to find out his watch has stopped. The "deep"* theological insight was that if your watch is wrong, you miss your train, but if your belief system is wrong you miss heaven.

One of the paragraphs was:

The Bible also tells us what is right and wrong. It tells us how we can please God...If we don't keep on believing what the Bible says, our Christian faith stops. Then, like a watch that has stopped, our religion begins to tell us wrong things.

I think there is a deeper insight that can be drawn from this.

You have a watch, and you spend an enjoyable time with your new date. You glance down and think, "It cannot have been a full two hours!" Do you assume you know more than your watch and throw it away? Or adjust it back to the time you think it should be?
That's what some people do when they decide they cannot agree with the clear words of the Bible. They assume their understanding of God and Christianity is adequate enough to make judgments on the Bible. And then they start drifting from God's Word, and then drifting away from God's Grace, and then they wonder where God went.

Or, you have a clock, and the alarm is set...but when it sounds in the morning, you are more concerned with your sleep than with getting up on time, and you turn it off. The alarm has sounded, but you refuse to heed it. Do you then blame the alarm clock? Well, from watching people, it certainly seems as if most people would rather blame God for the results of their willful digression from the path laid out for us by God in the Bible than accept their own conscious or unconscious decisions and actions are to blame.

I think this Bible verse is true. Although I often try to remind people that the Bible is not God, but merely one of the best ways to begin learning about God, I am convinced that the Bible is an important touchstone for your Faith. Return to it often, that heretical notions don't creep into your mind and heart. As Paul said, test every spirit against the scripture. If someone says something that does not agree with the Bible, it is an attempt to lead you astray, bit by imperceptible bit. Do not be deceived.

May God bless you all.

Read More "Watches and Faith" »

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posted by Nathan on 10:17 PM | Comments (2)

January 13, 2005

Parenting (Re: Recent Anecdote) « Parenting/Leadership 101 » « Stuff Important to Me »

Many thanks to all of you who have offered support and prayers and well-wishes.

One of the reasons I vent here is because you can only tell a friend so many times what is irritating you. The more something is bothering me, the more I need to say it; I wasn't looking for attention or affirmation, but it was appreciated, nonetheless.

Sometimes I need to get stuff out, yanno? I want to do everything I can to preserve my children's love for their mother, so that when she is ready to be a Mom again (if ever), there are as many bridges intact as possible. Another way to put that: I never want my kids to hear me say anything negative about her ever. And I'm making the divorce as easy on her as I can. I want to be able to tell them that I did everything I could to help her find happiness and be successful.

I hope I'm a good Daddy. It's too soon to tell.

It's easy to deal with a 3-year-old's problems...most of them can be solved with a hug.

A year ago I wasn't all that good of a daddy. While I was more involved than many, perhaps, I still had the attitude of, "I work hard and I deserve to relax!"

6 months ago I still lost my temper too much, was still too much the (ex-) Army Sgt stereotype, ordering my kids to clean their room in the front leaning rest position (okay, that's an exaggeration).

If there's anything I'm doing right, it's that I've learned that all the theory in the world goes out the window if doesn't work in reality. And kids (at least my kids, perhaps) are straightforward enough that you can tell pretty quickly when something is working or not. I have enough leadership training that I can apply some of that to thinking of new ways to get the kids to eat vegetables, or potty training, or treating their toys and each other with respect.
Another thing I think I've learned that I haven't seen many people talk about is that you truly do make things better for yourself if you put your kids' needs totally in front of your own. Meaning, one of the most important things kids need is your Full Attention*. First, it lets them know they are worth your full attention. Second, half the time they don't actually need help, they just want someone to engage them. If you only do it halfway, they will just bug you more, so if you are putting it off because you are busy or need to relax, then they'll keep disturbing you until you go crazy (see: Me as "parent", 6 months ago). Fully engage your kids, giving them what they need to feel satisfied before you worry about your own needs. That way you will be able to relax or concentrate more fully.

Read More "Parenting (Re: Recent Anecdote)" »

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posted by Nathan on 01:20 PM | Comments (5)

January 07, 2005

Good Flick « Stuff Important to Me »

Knowing me, you have to know it's not Hollywood, right?

Right.

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posted by Nathan on 03:00 PM | Comments (0)

January 05, 2005

Things I Hate « Stuff Important to Me »

...forgetting to change the email notification for trackbacks and comments to my work email address.

Sorry, folks, I wasn't intending to not dignify your remarks with a reply.

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posted by Nathan on 03:55 PM | Comments (5)

January 04, 2005

Musings on the Efficacy of God « Stuff Important to Me »

Let's say I provided a fairly long string of numbers to you. I ask you to determine whether it is an actual pattern, and then predict the next few numbers in the series, or if it is random.

You spend 10 hours on it and see no discernable pattern. How much more time do you spend?

15 minutes? An hour? A few minutes a day for a month?

Change the parameters: Let's say it is your job to do this. You are getting paid $40k a year to determine whether or not it is a pattern. You have other strings to check on, as well, but it isn't uncommon to require a month or two to determine beyond reasonable doubt that it is or isn't a pattern. Now how long do you spend? 2 months? 3? 12?

Now let's say I tell you that it definitely is a pattern, without a doubt, and I'm just seeing if you are smart enough to figure it out. It is a direct challenge to your expertise at pattern-finding. Do you spend more than a year?

What if you are the world's foremost leading pattern-finder? Do you give it a cursory glance and dismiss it, or do you work even longer?

Change the parameters again: You are an amateur mathematician, and I have promised $10 million to anyone who figures out the pattern. Your loved one will die within 15 years of a disease that would definitely be cured if you could come up with $8 million dollars. Do you spend every minute of the 15 years?

Now compare that to God and the Bible. If look into the Bible with an open mind but little persistence, are you really going to find the patterns of Truth? Probably not. Even if you've been raised as a Christian, you may eventually give up and stop looking for the patterns of Truth in the Bible. These ex-Christians tend to be very vehement in denying there is any pattern. They claim their experience as a Christian lends them credibility in "debunking" the myth of God. But aren't they really just quitters? That should make them less credible in any listeners' view.

Paradigm does matter.

If you start reading the Bible as if it actually is God, you will be disappointed, because God is not contained in a book. It is a roadmap to finding God, but you have to understand that is all it is. If you try to use Rand-McNally's Road Atlas to sail to Hawaii, you will probably ground on shoals. Is that a reason to blame Rand-McNally? If you use a dictionary as your sole source to write a report on the Viet Nam War, do you blame the dictionary if your information is insufficient to get an A? The Bible is one of the tools of the Christian in finding who God is, but you have to use the tool correctly.

If you start reading the Bible assuming every word was exactly inspired by God and utterly perfect, you will get stuck on some apparent contradictions. You will get stuck on some mulitiple copies with minor spelling or syntax variations. You will get stuck on the idea that some writings of the time were rejected at the time the Bible was put together. But if you understand Who God is, you can read the Bible with the paradigm that God has the power to make sure His Word is clear and correct, and the rest is fluff. This is in the same manner that a scratch on a DVD doesn't render it unviewable or make its data unreadable. Getting caught in the minutiae of the Bible ignores the miraculously high signal-to-noise ratio found there.

If your paradigm is that God is who He says He is, and that He is actually God (not just a superb or super human), and then read the Bible looking to understand His Will, some of the apparent contradictions of the Bible melt away.
For instance, how could a God of Love reject homosexuality, when that is nothing more than two people loving each other who happen to be the same sex? Well, that's confusing true love with earthly desire, isn't it? All loves are not equal, all loves do not come from the same motivation, all loves are not perfectable. Rather than attempting to elevate love between two people to the level of His Perfect Love, if you look at it from the viewpoint that our human love for each other is only a pale reflection of the love we should have for Him, which is an immature and dim reflection of the Love He has for us, then you can see that our love for each other really doesn't determine sin or righteousness. Rather, God is Perfect, and sin is that which is not-God. God didn't sit down and make a list of rules for us based on what He thought was good. Rather, He knows that when we selfishly place our will above His in anything, we are acting in a way that moves us farther from His presence. That hurts us. To help prevent us from being hurt, He gave us a guideline to help us begin to understand how we hurt ourselves and each other. That's all sin is: hurting ourselves and each other. For instance, abortion is a sin, not because a life is snuffed out, but because a person has callously chosen their own convenience above that of another person.** It isn't actually the death that is the sin, it is the selfish choosing of "self" over others.

Want to test that idea? Here ya go:

Consider that God tells us to not be concerned with our physical situation. Don't worry about tomorrow, for it will take care of itself. Don't worry about what you will eat or what you will wear, because God loves you more than the birds and flowers, and aren't they taken care of? Don't worry about whether you are slave, or poor, or whatever, because the important thing is not this earthly life or your enjoyment of it, but the next life andyour immortal soul.
But then He turns around and tells us to feed the hungry and clothe the naked. If physical comfort in this life doesn't matter, why should we bother? Because it isn't the physical comfort of the recipient that really matters. It is that you give of yourself, reducing your comfort or security in order to help someone else. You are giving for no other reason because God says so. It is denying yourself to help.

Do you see? It isn't actually the life that matters. It isn't actually the recipient that really matters to you. It is the effect on your heart, soul, and spirit that matters. If you give, you give of yourself, and end up getting more back.

In the same manner, the reason God doesn't want us to sin is that He doesn't want our hearts to grow cold, He doesn't want us to be selfish, He doesn't want us to be self-centered and make Gods of ourselves. He wants us to see the value of aligning our hearts, minds, and wills with His, and how happy, content, and peaceful we become when we do so.

I may have worded some of this clumsily or badly. I'll probably revise it throughout the day to word it more capably. I will certainly take any feedback* in mind if improving parts of this become absolutely necessary.

Read More "Musings on the Efficacy of God" »

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posted by Nathan on 06:10 AM | Comments (3)

January 03, 2005

I Gotta Get a Dog, Now « Stuff Important to Me »

Yeah, the animals did understand that something was up. At least, this one seemed to know...

Thanks for the tip, Jo.

Read More "I Gotta Get a Dog, Now" »

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posted by Nathan on 01:18 PM | Comments (0)

January 01, 2005

Seen on a French Fry Bag « Stuff Important to Me »

Check out this picture:

Read More "Seen on a French Fry Bag" »

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posted by Nathan on 04:49 PM | Comments (3)

December 30, 2004

Favorite Movies « Stuff Important to Me »

Thanks to El Capitan, I've remembered four more movies for my list of all time favorites:

Ones he didn't list that I thought of:
A Fish Called Wanda
Karate Kid II

Ones on his list I forgot:
Raiders of the Lost Ark
Die Hard

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posted by Nathan on 10:45 AM | Comments (5)
Predictions For 2005 « Stuff Important to Me »

Inspired by NRO's Symposium, I predict:

-Iran will detonate a nuclear device.

-Shortly thereafter, North Korea will detonate a nuclear device.

-Iraq's elections will occur, with more than 90% of polling locations proceeding without incident. The other less-than-10% will be in Sunni-dominated portions of Fallujah, Ramadi, and Baghdad. Moderate Sunnis will panic and split from the extremist at the imminent probability of being shut out of a stable, functioning government. Terrorist attacks will drop off in number but increase in lethality until early- or mid-summer, when increasing numbers of terrorists arrested or killed as well as a broad lack of success in meeting objectives will result in mass defections from terrorist ranks.

-Afghanistan will remain stable and grow more peaceful. Terrorist attacks will be largely nuisances only, at a rate and effectiveness less than that of the various IRA split-offs in Great Britain.

-At least two US State Supreme Courts will mandate the legality of same-sex marriage over the expressed popular wish of the state's residents.

-Saudi Arabia will experience a growing insurgency that may flame into an open Civil War. The main issue will be that the House of Saud is no longer trustworthy to be the protectors of the Holy Sites of Mecca and Medina.

-China will have at least two large-scale anti-corruption riots resulting in 10-20 people dead.

-Fidel Castro will die. I have no idea what might happen after that. Other than an outpouring of grief and tribute from liberals dwarfing that of conservatives for Reagan's funeral, I mean.

-Senate Democrats will lose a battle to confirm an extremely conservative, strict constructionist to replace Chief Justice Renquist.

-I will finish a novel.

-There won't be a single movie worth watching put out by the US film industry.
Even if they make another installment of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Or even if they remake "Red Dawn".

-Michael Moore will lose 40 pounds on the Atkins' Plan, then do a scathing documentary blaming Atkins for not convincing him to try sooner.

-I'll go another 365 days of blogging without getting linked by Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit.

-Michelle Malkin will discuss immigration issues (Hey, I gotta make sure I get at least one right, don't I?)

-al-Zarqawi will be located and killed (not arrested). Osama bin Laden will remain unlocated for one more year.

-Taiwan will agree to allow direct flights to/from Mainland China.

-President Bush will attain an approval rating of 55% by the end of September and maintain it throughout the year.

-No major terrorist attacks will occur on US soil.

-Drilling an ANWR will be approved.

-Congress will attempt to address "Zero-Tolerance Policies" run amok in public schools, but will fail to resolve the issue.

-The national homocide rate will be near the lowest levels in 20 years. Automobile deaths will be near-record levels. The mainstream news media will have hundreds of articles decrying the "assault weapon" ban sunset, and the high vehicular death rate will be blamed on SUVs, if mentioned at all.

-Preparations to reduce US troops in Iraq to 10% of current levels will begin by December.

-My friend Jo will start socio-political blogging again.

...and I'm way beyond "reaching" with some of these predictions. Still, I predict I'll add at least 3 more by the end of the day.

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posted by Nathan on 09:48 AM | Comments (3)
Word Associations « Stuff Important to Me »

I got some email spam the other day. No big deal, I get spam every day.

But since I have my email program set to "aggressive" in spam-blocking, I usually scan the titles and addresses to make sure I didn't miss a friends' email.

One title caught my eye: "Restore your drive!" What does it say about me that my first thought was that my computer's hard drive was fine and didn't need restoring? Because the address then made it clear that it was for a type of herbal viagra or something.

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posted by Nathan on 05:54 AM | Comments (0)

December 26, 2004

My All-Time Favorite Movies (Updated) « Stuff Important to Me »

Not necessarily in any particular order.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
Supercop
Princess Bride
Silverado
Red Dawn
Mystery Men
Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure
Groundhog Day
The Magnificent Seven
Star Wars, Episodes IV and V (only)
Big Trouble in Little China
All of Me
Eat, Drink, Man, Woman
Charade
Monster's Incorporated (or maybe A Bug's Life)
So I Married and Axe Murderer
Real Genius
Better Off Dead
This Is Spinal Tap
Rio Lobo

These are my favorite because they inspire my imagination, make me laugh the loudest, provide the best quotes, and have the best stories.

In my opinion, of course.

Late Additions:
Oscar
The Terminator
Office Space (I can't believe I forgot that one)

More coming soon, I'm sure.

Update II:
And here they are:
Blazing Saddles
The Life of Brian (sorta tied with Monty Python and the Holy Grail)
Beastmaster
Robin Hood (animated)

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posted by Nathan on 09:11 AM | Comments (9)
» evolution links with: natural selections

December 24, 2004

Merry Christmas! « Stuff Important to Me »

May God touch your heart today and tomorrow, and give you peace.

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posted by Nathan on 08:36 AM | Comments (3)

December 23, 2004

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon « Stuff Important to Me »

I think it is quite possibly the best movie ever.

Watching the night-time chase/fight scene right after the sword is stolen always gets my blood racing.

It's absolutely perfect for what it is: an exciting, twisty action movie with a rather deep message...yet with lush visuals to boot.

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posted by Nathan on 11:31 PM | Comments (6)

December 22, 2004

Looks About Right To Me « Stuff Important to Me »

Jeremy responded to my whining and made a GI Joe card for me:


Thanks, Jeremy!!!

Read More "Looks About Right To Me" »

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posted by Nathan on 11:23 AM | Comments (9)

December 18, 2004

Great News! « Stuff Important to Me »

My sister's scan came out clean! No sign of cancer anywhere but the lump. They probably won't even have to do a full mastectomy!

Thanks for your prayers!*

Read More "Great News!" »

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posted by Nathan on 09:37 AM | Comments (4)

December 17, 2004

More On The Atheist Who Recanted « Stuff Important to Me »

This article by Jonathan Witt goes to a greater depth and intelligently discusses some of the reasons Flew changed his mind.

[Evolutionists'] prior commitment to see only material causes forces them to "produce material explanations, no matter how counterintuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that Materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door."

Not that Flew is a Christian or anything:

Such evidence has drawn Flew from atheism to a non-specific theism. He isn't ready to accept the God of a particular religion, nor does he believe in an afterlife. The change is, nevertheless, significant. He no longer inhabits a worldview where the miraculous and the irrational are synonymous.

H/T to Dean.

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posted by Nathan on 08:23 AM | Comments (4)
» BrainWacker Blog links with: Live Deathbed Conversion

December 16, 2004

The Story of My Life « Stuff Important to Me »

I've brought up, implicitly or explicitly, that I've been having problems at work over the last few months.

One way to put it is that my contributions aren't being noticed, and those that are being noticed aren't being appreciated. Even worse, the things that irritate my superiors the most in my workplace are lack of professionalism and selfishness, and I am one of the most disciplined and professional, and a great team player. I take the worst jobs and assignments without complaining or asking for favors in return. And one of the most trusted workers in the office is one of the least professional and most selfish and apt to complain about being overworked.

But perhaps an anecdote explains it more ably:

In Hawaii, on the North Shore, there's a really big rock, larger than house-sized, just off the beach in the water. On the ocean side, then, there's a spot where you can jump in the water from about 20 feet up. At low tide you might have to time your jump to land in a swell, just to be safe.

I have a minor fear of heights.

But when it came time back in the day to re-enlist the second time, I considered it as a place to do the ceremony. My Company Commander was all for the idea and encouraged me to re-enlist there. I'd seen some pictures from other re-enlistment ceremonies, and the pictures are pretty dramatic. So I agreed.

The day came, we did the ceremony, and then at the precipice, my fear of heights kicked in. I had visions of hitting the water, then having my femurs splinter from the impact of landing in a trough. I could see the last thing going through my mind being my spine.

So I froze. A few of the people there yelled at me to jump, but I couldn't. I made a few abortive tries, but couldn't.

However, after I saw the second person jump, I was good and jumped.

I went back immediately and jumped again, just to reduce that fear as much as I could.

I felt proud of myself. I had challenged and conquered a fear (at least in this context). A few months later, though, I found out that much of the people in my unit had lost respect for me because I hadn't jumped immediately.

That seems to be typical for me. When it comes to my accomplishments and actions, it seems like my peers and superiors usually take it in the most negative way possible.

I'm still not sure why.

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posted by Nathan on 06:07 PM | Comments (0)

December 15, 2004

Reasons to Move Away From Eastern Washington « Stuff Important to Me »

An unusually smooth and swiftly growing lava dome within the crater of Washington state's Mount St. Helens volcano is an extraordinary and perplexing event with an unknown outcome, geologists said Tuesday.

I can't help but think there may be a few good double-entendres in the title of the piece, though:

Scientists Amazed at Mount St. Helens' Growing Dome

This post is a Companion Piece to this post.

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posted by Nathan on 10:34 AM | Comments (2)
» The LLama Butchers links with: King's county democrats find new hidden source of ballots
Reasons to Not Move To Hawaii « Stuff Important to Me »

Or, at least, the North Shore.

This might be a good time to pray for Venomous Kate, too. She was having big problems with property erosion just last year, and this won't help any, I can tell ya.

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posted by Nathan on 08:12 AM | Comments (6)
Truly Un-Amazing « Stuff Important to Me »

So I had a little denouement the other day.

Nothing big. Most of you, if not all, will scratch your head and say, "How did he last 36 years on this planet without figuring that out until now?"

What can I say? [shrug] I'm pretty stupid sometimes.

Read More "Truly Un-Amazing" »

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posted by Nathan on 06:09 AM | Comments (0)

December 14, 2004

Unfortunate News « Stuff Important to Me »

In the "Snakes. Why did it have to be snakes?" department, a lump in my 2nd-eldest sister's breast turned out to not only be malignant, but also the fastest-spreading kind. The doctor thinks they can shrink it with chemotherapy and then do a lumpectomy rather than a mastectomy.

Prayers for her would be a good thing to get me for Christmas.

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posted by Nathan on 07:10 PM | Comments (7)
I've ALWAYS liked Jay Mohr « Stuff Important to Me »

Interestingly, about as much as I currently dislike John McCain, but that's another issue.

The point is, I now have another reason to like the guy.

It had me choked up. I always like success stories, especially about people I like and respect as much as Ace.

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posted by Nathan on 02:55 PM | Comments (0)

Those of a certain age will be transported to a different age and time by this:

"C & H" C & H
"Pure Cane Sugar" Pure Cane Sugar
"From Hawaii" From Hawaii
"Growing in the sun" Growing in the sun!

Feel free to hate me. My parents do.

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posted by Nathan on 10:54 AM | Comments (3)

December 13, 2004

Inebriation Fare (Updated) « Stuff Important to Me »

Or, What Do You Like To Eat When You're Drunk?

Personally, I prefer Whataburger's Whata-Chicken myself. They make it hot and fresh, and with fresh, crisp tomato and lettuce and a little mayo, it always hit the spot. My preference for that sandwich may be because a Whataburger restaurant was just over the pedestrian bridge from my dorm room my freshman year of college...

So. What's your favorite?

The question came up during an equally intriguing discussion of what type of things you'd need to know if you ever ended up suddenly amnesiatic.

Update: Yep, I may cover important issues of the day...but ZombyBoy makes 'em fun!

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posted by Nathan on 01:49 PM | Comments (6)
» resurrectionsong links with: Pre-Amnesia Blogging, Part 2 (Updated)
Just So You Know « Stuff Important to Me »

Anyone who ever uses the term "Speaking Truth to Power" in my presence will automatically lose all credibility on just about any issue imaginable. Forever.

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posted by Nathan on 11:30 AM | Comments (7)

December 10, 2004

James 3: 3-6 « Stuff Important to Me »
3When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. 4Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. 5Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. 6The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.

Pretty smart guy, that James.

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posted by Nathan on 10:06 AM | Comments (0)

December 06, 2004

Vocabulary Expansion « Stuff Important to Me »

I pride myself on having a fairly extensive vocabulary. It's not often that I encounter a word that I'm sure I've never heard/seen before at all.

Thanks to Dale Franks of Q and O, I now know the meaning of the word Pelf.

Brain Fertilizer: Serving up "Mediocre" Daily. For the Children.

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posted by Nathan on 02:38 PM | Comments (1)
Pathetic (UPDATED) « Stuff Important to Me »

Is there anything more pathetic than someone airing their dirty laundry in a public forum, including hundreds of complete strangers?

Well, if you feel this way, don't read the extended entry.

Read More "Pathetic (UPDATED)" »

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posted by Nathan on 12:08 PM | Comments (4)

December 03, 2004

It Looks Like There IS a God « Stuff Important to Me »

How else can you explain this? (scroll down for the final update)

Okay, that wording was specifically chosen for the potential to annoy secularists...[grin]

It's interesting how when secularists get their way, it's the proper function of public opinion, but when Christians get their way, we're all dumb hicks who are trying to ensure only our belief system can be expressed. Pot, meet kettle.

Merry Christmas, ya'll!

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posted by Nathan on 12:45 PM | Comments (1)

December 02, 2004

2004 Weblog Awards « Stuff Important to Me »

I didn't really want to make much of this, because I didn't want to reveal how badly I wanted to make the final cut for nominations.

But now that I am nominated, I can ask you to stop by and vote for me for best of the top #500-1000 blogs.

Thanks for nominating me, and thanks for voting for me! (I've got 3 votes already)

Honestly, it would truly be an honor to even come in 15th out of 15 in this group!

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posted by Nathan on 12:53 PM | Comments (0)

November 28, 2004

Breaking News « Stuff Important to Me »

Well, not really...

I just found out that John Ratzenberger, the only man to have a voice part in every Pixar Studios full-length motion picture, who also got to have a minor speaking part in perhaps the greatest movie of all time, The Empire Strikes Back, on top of everything else, also had a minor speaking role in A Bridge Too Far.

I was watching the credits to see if the Captain who nearly dies was the guy from Eddie and the Cruisers, (he wasn't), and there pops up the name John Ratzenberger. Sheesh!

So I went back to the IMDB to see what other cool stuff he's been in... ...and that was about it. He was a "Controller" in both Superman I and II. He was in Outland and Firefox and Gandhi, which are all cool, I guess.

I'm just wondering if maybe we should have done "6 degerees of John Ratzenberger" instead of Kevin Bacon. Which, if you didn't know, there is at least one direct link between them...do you know which movie?

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November 25, 2004

Problems Trying to Discuss Weight Issues in Blog Comments « Stuff Important to Me »

I have really appreciated the discussion going on in comments over the secularization of our government.

However, there have been some problems in expressing views from both sides.

Here's the gist of what I just posted in the comments of the previous post:

...same words, different understandings...

Never underestimate the possibility that we are just talking past each other.

That goes for all four of us.

I'm kind of carrying on three slightly different conversations with 3 different people on slightly different aspects of the situation. Forgive me if I get confused. I just got finished typing a long response to you, Suzie, and then realized I was responding to something you didn't say.*
[sigh]
This would be so much easier over beer.

Here's part of my problem: many of the aspects that Suzie has no problem with are exactly what a-[e] objects to. Should I let you two argue amongst yourself first?
Instead, though, for ease of discussion, I tend to lump you all together as part of the problem I face, in that I'm sure Suzie agrees with a-[e] enough that if a-[e] ever manages to make progress on his goals, Suzie would do nothing to stop him from removing "under God" from the pledge and "In God We Trust" from currency. Even if I'm wrong about Suzie, specifically, there are millions who are described by what I'm saying.
In a battle of opinion over symbols, the direction you are facing has as much to do with battle lines as the actual position you adopt.

...

On the other hand, that doesn't mean I think any of you are automatically and completely wrong. I don't make appeals to authority with the assumption that the authorities I listen to and agree with are the only experts.**
This is a debate. There is quite a bit of gray area.
Simply put, I don't like the direction we are going, and there are enough Constitutional Scholars and intelligent, educated laymen who agree with me that there is no compelling reason for us to concede defeat.***

Read More "Problems Trying to Discuss Weight Issues in Blog Comments" »

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posted by Nathan on 09:12 AM | Comments (0)

November 24, 2004

Weird Spam « Stuff Important to Me »

I am "suffering" through a very weird spam campaign that's going on right now. Every day there are two or three spam comments left...the exact same IP address...but no links. The "name" field is always filled with something like "buy contact lenses online", but there's no URL there. I've been automatically deleting it, but recently started paying attention to the body of the comments. Whoever the spammer is, he's including some pretty cool aphorisms, perhaps as a way of attempting to camouflage his spam...?

Here's todays:

There are more fools in the world than there are people. Heinrich Heine (1797 - 1856)

I might end up not deleting these...

Rev. Misa, what do you think?

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posted by Nathan on 07:31 AM | Comments (2)

November 18, 2004

Trivia Question (Updated) « Stuff Important to Me »

So who is the only person to have a part in all the Pixar Animation Studio full-length feature films and have an on-screen role in one of the original Star Wars trilogy movies?

No prizes, I'm just trying to see if anyone didn't already know this...

UPDATE:
Warning: the answer is in the comments. One person was absolutely sure and correct, the other not sure but guessed correctly. So at this point, take a look and tell me if you were correct or not.

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posted by Nathan on 06:16 PM | Comments (5)
Conceptual Meltdowns « Stuff Important to Me »

Last year I had some freaky melt-down. Those who were reading me at the time (you won't find it in my archives, it was among those lost in the mists of time before I became part of the mu.nu family) may remember me getting all cryptic and mysterious about some strange denoument.
Basically, it was the realization that despite living in the same world with the same common vocabulary and most of the same end-goals, men and women's mutual understanding of each other's views of something as primal and basic as "sexual intercourse" remain so woefully incomplete as to be near-total incomprehension. And if it were impossible to get any real understanding on something so primal and basic and universal as that, then there was no hope of really understanding complex issues like parenting and life-goals and how to deal with in-laws. And from there I realized that the conceptual differences between even obvious words like "Hello" and "Hi" and "Greetings" are such that every single person on the planet has a slightly different understanding of each of those simple, obvious words, so how can we hope to have any meaningful conversations on complex topics that include discussions of "good" and "progress" and "unfortunate" and "irony", and so forth. Going further, I added to the mix the idea that written communication lacks tone of voice, body language, facial expression, and so forth, so that written communication often is only 40% as effective as a face-to-face conversation, or worse.

So I felt, what's the point of trying to explain anything? What's the point of trying to talk at all?

Well, the feeling faded, enough that I'm still trying to communicate, still trying to explain, still trying to discuss. But the realization stays with me, somewhat. Enough that I don't get as upset by misunderstandings in blog-talks, enough that I keep the inherent ambiguity in mind at all times.

Well, I've had another such denouement today. Of a different sort, not one that will make me go cryptic and stop blogging.

It was just on the idea of love. The shorthand version is that we humans talk about 'love' as if it were an object that can be measured, or a destination that can be reached, or something existing as a separate entity within ourselves. I now think that love is a flavor, and a natural response, and a color, and an impetus for deliberate action, and a mixture of all sorts of elements.

My wife and I are splitting up. We file for divorce tomorrow. It's really complicated, and I don't really wish to explain much. But I was grieving yesterday over the loss of our love due to a certain occurrence 3-4 years ago...a friend pointed out that it probably wasn't that occurrence, necessarily, but that the occurrence merely highlighted the mis-match of hearts. And I realized that I can't say I still love her, but I also can't say I don't love her anymore. The love I felt will always be with me, but the circumstances of our marriage are such that the feeling can no longer be expressed properly and adequately, or relied upon as a source of togtherness, closeness, understanding, and renewal. Shadows of love imply the existence of love, however. If loved isn't acted on, is it still love? What use is feeling without action?

If you love someone and that person dies, do you still love them? What happens to the love? Is what you feel only an echo? Or a slowly-fading after-image? What if the person is still alive but merely departed? What if the person merely grows or changes to the point they are no longer the person you loved? If it is true love, shouldn't it be totally accepting? Can "true" love be so accepting that it accepts a returned contempt or disregard? Should it?

I'm beginning to think that "deciding" to love or marry or leave or stay probably indicate a betrayal of self in some manner, in that if you truly have love with someone, being together will simply be the most natural thing in the world. If there is no "true" love, then separating will simply be the most natural thing in the world. But what if it's somewhere in the middle? You probably can have a "successful", satisfying marriage without actually having what I've just described as a "true" love. In fact, most marriages probably are based on a "less than perfect/true" love. But that makes me think too many people commit to or marry someone we probably shouldn't; it might be better to wait for the right person...even if it might mean never entering a loving relationship for an entire life.
But then, maybe "finding the right person" and experiencing "true" love depends more on your own maturity than on matching with a person. If both of you are sufficiently mature, maybe you can experience that feeling of total peace and security that comes with an idealized love.

If all of this is on anything close to the right track, then this says some very profound things about God and his Love for us. God is Love, remember? And: "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life."

God's Love is far more mature than any human can understand in the span of one lifetime, and on the basis of His love for us, the sacrifice of His life to save us was the most natural thing in the world, a sacrifice perhaps utterly beyond the comprehension of humans as immature and selfish as we are.

...I need to think more on this. Maybe I'm just full of crap.*

Read More "Conceptual Meltdowns" »

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posted by Nathan on 01:35 PM | Comments (7)
The Best Movie I'd Never Heard of Until a Classmate Convinced Me To See It « Stuff Important to Me »

A move about superheros without a single demonstration of super powers: The Specials.

Incidentally, filmed in just 18 days. Lots of cool quotes.

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posted by Nathan on 11:16 AM | Comments (0)

November 17, 2004

The Roe Effect « Stuff Important to Me »

James Taranto of Opinion Journal's Best of the Web has several tongue-in-cheek themes he vamps on often. One that seems sorta-serious, or serious in a facetious way, is his reminders of what he calls the Roe Effect.

In the 17 November edition of Best of the Web, he touches on it again. Let's tune in and see:

It's Catching On

The idea was born in this column in Jan. 2003, though we didn't name it the Roe effect until later. In the wake of President Bush's re-election, it's catching on. Creative Loafing Atlanta, an "alternative" weekly newspaper, features an interview with Ed Larson, a University of Georgia historian, who argues that religious people have an evolutionary advantage:

Who are the people having kids today? Immigrants, yes. That's one group. But among white, middle-class Americans, religious people are having children at a much higher rate. More and more and more children percentage-wise than non-religious people. There's a survival value in religious beliefs. They have a sense of purpose. They feel their mission in life is to multiply and be fruitful. The whole Darwinian concept--evolution--is on the side of evangelical Christians. They're growing by any measure.

National Public Radio's Eric Weiner has a report that makes the same point, relying largely on the work of Phillip Longman, author of "The Empty Cradle." Says Weiner: "Longman offers no specific advice for liberals about how to close the fertility gap, but if they don't know how to go about that, well, their problems probably extend well beyond the world of politics."

While I'm mostly convinced Mr. Taranto on to something, I do think he's putting the cart before the horse, at least with his citing of Mr. Weinar. See, having children has a profound impact on adults. First, you can no longer think of only yourself and your adult needs, you must start looking at the world as it will impact a toddler, a child, a pre-teen, an adolescent, and how you can minimize the negative influences, and how you can counter-act negative peer pressures. Then you start to think about what you want to teach your children about the world and the way it works. It's suddenly not enough that you have moral stances, you have to be able to justify and explain them to a child who really needs to know if they are going to internalize and accept. You begin to realize how powerful leadership-by-example is. The first time you hear your child use a curse word because you haven't been careful is humiliating and vexing.

The result of all this is that many people who went to church only casually when single or even married suddenly find weekly churchgoing a significant priority. I was struggling over how to teach my kids all about Christian concepts until my parents sent me our old family devotion book "More Little Visits With God". You'd be surprised how relevant 40-year-old Bible studies can be. Or maybe you wouldn't.

In any case, I guess what I'm saying is that it may not be that being religious and opposing abortion results in having more children, but rather it is entirely possible that having more children emphasizes to you the miracle of life so that you can no longer support abortion, and having children often leads one to rediscover or at least re-emphasize one's religious faith.

You heard it here first.*

Read More "The Roe Effect" »

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posted by Nathan on 03:46 PM | Comments (1)

So Sears is merging with K-Mart.

You know what this means, right?

We can now finally have the slogan become reality: "Shop Smart, shop S-Mart!"

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posted by Nathan on 12:34 PM | Comments (2)

November 16, 2004

What to Get Me For Christmas « Stuff Important to Me »

But coordinate it first, because I don't want to get 243 of 'em.

Thanks to Craig for letting me know this was out, even if indirectly.

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posted by Nathan on 02:13 PM | Comments (4)

November 04, 2004

Dead Or Alive? I don't know. If he's not dead, he soon will be.

But the important point is that he is no longer the power in Palestine. His power is in the process of being transferred to others. There is no way his power concentration could be transferred to a single individual, and so power in Palestine will be diffused and divided among a number of individuals. This is a very good thing. Having power divided among several people means that one person cannot stop progress or obstruct peace on a whim or plain stubbornness, as I feel Arafat often did. And none of these people will have the name or stature among the Palestinians as Arafat did. That means there are a variety of pressures that can be brought to bear upon whoever the turn out to be that could not have been brought to bear on Arafat.

As I said before off-line, the prospects of peace between Palestine and Israel seem to go up in direct correlation to the decline of Arafat's health.

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posted by Nathan on 02:15 PM | Comments (0)

November 02, 2004

Just Popped Open a Guiness « Stuff Important to Me »

'Nuff said.

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posted by Nathan on 07:48 PM | Comments (0)

October 25, 2004

I've Got Two Tickets to Paradise « Stuff Important to Me »

I will be moving to the island of Oahu in the Hawaiian Island chain this coming Spring.

That's the main island, the one with 80% of the population. It has Pearl Harbor, Diamond Head, Waikiki, and Honolulu.

I'm planning on staying 2-3 years, and will get my Master's in Chinese while I'm there. I might end up staying more like 5-6 years, but that depends on many things beyond my control. In any case, I do not plan on settling down there for the rest of my life or anything. Too small and too expensive and too isolated. Nice in the winter, tho.

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posted by Nathan on 08:40 AM | Comments (6)

October 19, 2004

Cleaning Up After Myself « Stuff Important to Me »

A few points.

First, I made chicken strips last night (picture coming up soon) again, but this time I followed an impulse and included oatmeal in the flour. It was SO-O-O good! I highly recommend you try that with your own homemade chicken strips.

Second, the 50,000th visitor was apparently someone who found my site by looking for "fertilizer". Now, maybe it was someone trying to find "brain fertilizer" and seeing what they could find, but I doubt it. Farmer Jones, if you want to claim the prize, go ahead and identify yourself. But the 50,001st visitor was a referrel from Michelle Malkin, so is much more likely to be a blogger who might be interested in a prize I might be talked into offering. So how do I figure out who it actually is to contact them? If you think it is you, contact me and we'll start trying to actually verify your identity and discussing what you'd like for a prize. Um, not a Thunderbird, nor even a bottle of Thunderbird "wine".

Third, I've got at least 3 projects on the back burner: 1) the Cabal of Cunning Linguists, 2) "What they're saying about me", and 3) picture of me in the sidebar. I do have a problem with procrastination, but it's more than that. I'm going through a great deal of turmoil in my private life (I guess I should have put out a prayer request earlier, but better late than never!), as well as some turmoil professionally, as well as an increased workload at work separate from the workplace turmoil. So while I can't actually say "light blogging" because I'll post when I have time, you may have to be patient with me for actually completing some of these projects. Hopefully before Thanksgiving...

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posted by Nathan on 07:38 AM | Comments (2)

October 16, 2004

Images of Fall From My Neighborhood « Stuff Important to Me »

Below the fold:

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posted by Nathan on 08:40 AM | Comments (1)
Homemade Chicken Strips « Stuff Important to Me »

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My first attempt at 'em. They turned out quite good, I must say.

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posted by Nathan on 08:29 AM | Comments (4)

October 14, 2004

That's It: I'm Giving Up Blogging « Stuff Important to Me »

Well, no, not really.

But something I've been railing against for a good portion of the last two years (and getting nowhere, I might add) was just summed up beautifully and wonderfully and precisely by Stephen Green of Vodkapundit.

Excerpt:

Too many Democrats, especially at the national level, just don't care that our system, our nation is far more important than any single election.

I could mention the Lautenberg Trick in New Jersey. Or Gore's ballot shenanigans in Florida. Or the voter-registration fraud currently going on in Colorado, Nevada, and elsewhere. Or the Democrats' successful call to bring election observers into this country. Bring them in from where, Venezuela? Hey, no big deal sullying the reputation of the world's oldest continuously-functioning democracy, just so long as we can make the Republicans look bad, right?

The rules don't matter. The reputation of the country doesn't matter. The political health of the nation doesn't matter. Power matters.

There's more. There's a lot more there. Go read it. The conclusion is particularly strong and apt.

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posted by Nathan on 03:38 PM | Comments (2)

October 09, 2004

Significant Events « Stuff Important to Me »

Friday morning I and my wife went to register to vote. It is the first time I have registered since 1988. Yeah, I missed the election 1992, 1996, and 2000. Even more importantly, it is my naturalized-citizen's wife first opportunity to vote in a Presidential election. She said if I hadn't made a point of taking her along, she probably wouldn't have registered.

Friday night we had the first Inland Northwest Blogjam*. A great time was had by all, I think. Pictures will be posted later, but I was talking more than snapping, and there are only 3 pics, and I think none with me in them.

Saturday morning I went and picked up packages of literature to drop off at the homes of people who requested them. It's my first time ever to do volunteer work of any kind for a campaign....my parents weren't that political, y'see.

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posted by Nathan on 07:55 PM | Comments (0)

October 07, 2004

WMDs and Character « GWOT » « Stuff Important to Me »

Part of my maturation into an adult included a recent/belated recognition of the importance of character.

Simply put, as I look back on the most devastating mistakes of my life, most were because I dismissed or did not take the time to fully ascertain a person's character. I made decisions based on optimism, hope, or what the other person chose to display. I saw mixed messages of behavior and chose to take the ones I preferred as the "true" personality.

Now, however, I base all my interactions, choices, decisions, etc, on the character of the individual I'm engaging. Based on what I formerly considered "unrelated" behaviors, and by noticing what choices a person makes on "little" issues, I can predict with great accuracy how they will act or choose or react under stress, when encountering obstacles, on major issues, or when their own self-interest is involved.

Based on all that, the debate and dispute over Saddam al-Hussein's possession WMD is silly, unproductive, and useless.

As I've said before, I can think of three distinct, easily-implemented scenarios by which on the day we invaded, Saddam al-Hussein still had the stockpiles of WMD suggested by Colin Powell's presentation to the UN, yet we would still be unable to find any actual evidence:
1) He possessed large stockpiles, and used GPS to hide it in the trackless desert wastes.
2) He possessed large stockpiles of gas, but released it into the atmosphere in an uninhabited region of the desert.
3) He possessed large stockpiles, but shipped it out to Syria early in the war.

Remember, all of the WMD unaccounted for at the end of Gulf War I that we know he possessed would fit inside the space of a two-car garage. Even if he tripled it, it wouldn't take all that many trucks to transport the entire stockpile anywhere that could be reached by road.

Thus, assertions that Saddam al-Hussein and the state of Iraq didn't possess WMD stockpiles still seem to me to be inconclusive, at best. And dishonest, at worst.

But the bottom line is: Capability plus Intent equals Threat. Saddam al-Hussein clearly had the intent to use WMDs, his character confirms that. The Capability to produce, obtain, and use WMD is ridiculously easy to obtain and maintain and keep hidden. The only way to remove this proven Threat to the United States and to the strategic region of the world was to remove Saddam al-Hussein.

I must conclude that anyone who comes to any other conclusion is simply disregarding the demonstrated character of Saddam al-Hussein. Interestingly, the people who most object to our invasion of Iraq are the people who tend to dismiss character as unimportant, anyway.

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posted by Nathan on 08:17 AM | Comments (0)

October 06, 2004

The Great Inland Northwest Blogjam, Attempt 1 « Stuff Important to Me »

Okay, I declare this Friday to be the first Spokane blog meet-up. We are going to meet at the bar restaurant section* at John Michael's Thomas** restaurant (used to be The Solicitor's Corner) at the Northwest corner of Francis and Division, because it is insanely easy to find: it's the big yellow barn-looking thing right across from PetCo.
We'll meet between 7 and 7:30pm 8 and 8:30pm. Don't be late, because once we all get there, I will be open to suggestions that we relocate to a different venue. Then again, we may spend the whole evening there...

Significant others are more than welcome, if not actually required. Unfortunately, children aren't allowed in the bar section... Ask for "Nathan's Table" when you get there. Or if you get there first, set up "Nathan's Table". [grin] Right now, I wouldn't expect more than 8 of us, max.

Check back later in the week, because if anyone is adamant about changing the date or location or time, we'll discuss it here. I know it's short notice, but you work with the time you have...

Oh, and I only know of 5 Spokane-area bloggers, including me, so feel free to send others this way if you know of 'em. Heck, if anyone wants to come out from Seattle or anything, speak up now!

Read More "The Great Inland Northwest Blogjam, Attempt 1" »

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posted by Nathan on 01:30 PM | Comments (18)
» Note-It Posts links with: 10/8/04

September 29, 2004

Yeah, She's Gonna Blow « Stuff Important to Me »

It'll be 1980 all over again.

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posted by Nathan on 07:22 PM | Comments (1)

September 27, 2004

Mt St Helens May Explode « Stuff Important to Me »

Those of us alive and old enough to be aware in 1980 remember the eruptions of Mt St Helens. My sister said the ash fall-out made noon look like it was snowing at night. We were far enough east that we merely had gray days and a dusting of gray powder on the ground (and a few ruined vehicle paint jobs from the acidic ash...).
Still though, it was an important moment in US History, for various reasons.

Well, it looks like that might happen again.

Here is a site with bunches of pics, before/during/after.

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posted by Nathan on 08:36 AM | Comments (3)

September 24, 2004

Cool Picture « Stuff Important to Me »


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posted by Nathan on 10:01 AM | Comments (5)

September 23, 2004

Sensitivity « Stuff Important to Me »

Conservatives (me included, naturally) often decry the liberal groups who whine, whinge, and complain about non-substantive and/or half-imagined slurs against minorities or other special-interest groups with fragile egos.

So, as much as I like Michelle Malkin, I'm not really supportive of her indignation over Michigan schools running terrorism scenarios with home-schoolers as bad guys.

C'mon, people! Are home-schooling parents really going to attack?* Of course not! So why are you offended? Why are you bothered? The very ridiculousness of the scenario should have you amused, not angry. Heck, good homeschooling parents could and should probably see this as a good learning opportunity to discuss and teach about stereotypes, self-confidence, and demonization.

So let's all chill out a little and not be so prickly in the future, eh?

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posted by Nathan on 04:11 PM | Comments (15)
New Term Alert « Stuff Important to Me »

For what it's worth, from now on I will be referring to our activities in Iraq as the Iraqi Reformation.

That is all.

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posted by Nathan on 09:38 AM | Comments (0)

September 21, 2004

My Barbecue Prowess « Stuff Important to Me »

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Using my family's "secret" recipe. This was from 3 weeks ago...

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posted by Nathan on 07:51 AM | Comments (2)

September 13, 2004

Last month I replaced the sideview mirror on my 1991 Toyota Corolla. Last week I used some Armor All on the dash, and made those interior surfaces look nearly new (the carpet and some of the other surfaces still need some work...).
Over the weekend, I managed to get a replacement brake-light assembly and a replacement for the right rear passenger door that had broken a year ago.

Total cost for improving the car's value and serviceability by about $500? Less than $100, less than $50, and even less than $30.*

Next up: replacing the sagging roof liner, shampooing the upholstery, and maybe even replacing the instrument panel facade, because while it looks clean and shiny, there is a major split in one place and one corner is broken off completely.

And I've only had to put $350 of repairs into it since I bought it 3 years and 40,000 miles ago.

The only problem is that I don't think there's any way to get a decent paint job for less than $500 (no, I don't want the cheapest level), but that's what it's going to take to make the car seem totally new. But when you compare that to a new or nearly-new vehicle, that still can only be considered cheap. The car has enough power for me and gets 30 mpg in commuting. If it doesn't actually die on me, I may keep this car for another decade.

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posted by Nathan on 03:37 PM | Comments (1)

September 03, 2004

Prayer Request « Stuff Important to Me »

Remember to pray for President Bill Clinton and his family as he recovers from a heart attack.

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posted by Nathan on 10:56 AM | Comments (1)

September 01, 2004

Some of you may have noticed I tend to be somewhat of an apologist for China.

I hope I can help you understand why. I hope I am accurate in my self-assessment.

Simply put, I love China and I love the people of China. I love the society, I love the atmosphere.

In 1998, I spent 6 weeks in Beijing studying language. It was perhaps the best time of my entire life. We spent 30 hours each week in scheduled language activities, but I'm still amazed by how slowly time moved while I was there. I could travel around and talk to a thousand people and see a million things and still have the entire evening to go out and do it again. If I didn't have family and responsibility and ambition and if I had an independent source of living income, I'd move there in a heartbeat to live out the rest of my days. The people are open and friendly, the food is awesome, and the water unsafe to drink.

Don't get me wrong, there are some significant annoyances there. Beijing is dusty, windy, polluted, too hot in the summer, too cold in the winter, and sanitation is primitive: people throw their rubbish on specified street corners on Monday mornings for workers to pick up with shovels...

And yet, I don't think I've ever been more at peace then while there. Perhaps that indelible impression affects my viewpoint.

On the other hand, one must not forget that the reports regarding freedom in China are often filtered through people with axes to grind. China was founded as a Communist nation (they are not Communist anymore, really, although they are still totalitarian without an established Rule of Law) and so they are automatically hated by certain people for that reason. The Communists also displaced the very corrupt and very wealthy (and equally "evil") totalitarian power structure known as the Nationalist Party, or KMT. The people who were on that gravy train, or children of those who lost power and influence when the KMT were forced out of China still harbor those resentments and that colors everything they say and do about China. And let us not forget that China had its own McCarthyism, except rather than just not being able to continue in the entertainment industry, many people were unjustly imprisoned and tortured, and they still wish to punish China for those experiences...even though it is no longer the same China.

And so you hear reports of political dissidents or Christians being thrown in jail and tortured on a whim...

...but the reality doesn't match that. You can be a Christian in China. You can criticize the government in China. Nothing will happen to you. I saw protesters, I attended church where there were a thousand people in attendence with only a smattering of occidental faces. From my perspective, reports of harsh crackdowns are exaggerated, if not fabricated outright.

Where do these reports come from, then? After being worked to the point of literally breaking his back in a Chinese prison, Harry Wu has made a career out of exposing China's cruelty in the prison system. Unfortunately, the things he reports have no outside corroboration; he has revenge as a possible motive, and the wealth and comfort he has acquired as an activist may provide additional incentive for him to produce allegations.

Have Christians been thrown in jail? Aren't "underground" churches illegal? Yes. But in China many of the underground churches are fronts for people plotting the overthrow of the government. They often have the exact characteristics of what we consider "cults" in the United States, in which people are preaching without ever having even read the Bible. Stop a moment and think of what happened at the Branch Davidian compound in Waco and how it could be portrayed by a foreign press who might be willing to distort a few details to score political points.

Well, then, what about the Tian'anmen Square massacre? Well, what about Ruby Ridge? What about Kent State? What about Selma? What about WTO protests in the US? First, it was a tragedy, but all four examples from the US should demonstrate that using military or para-military forces not trained in riot control as an attempt to intimidate an unruly crowd is a recipe for disaster. Second, China has addressed that problem by training and equipping riot-control troops, and there has not been a repeat of that incident. Third, since the United States has these same blots on our record but still thinks we have the moral standing to criticize other nations, at what point does the statute of limitations run out? There were only 19 years from Kent State to Tian'anmen, when we felt safe enough to criticize an event that differed only in scope...but I'll bet you'll hear plenty about Tian'anmen at the 19-year-mark when Beijing hosts the 2008 Olympics.

We incarcerate people at a greater rate than China, as well.

And when you consider things like speed traps, IRS audits, and Democrat smear campaigns if you dare criticize their candidate for President, Chinese people live in far less fear of their government than US citizens do. I don't dispute that China is more harsh on their criminals than we are...but I think that differing opinions on deterrence/rehabilitation is not really a human rights issue. Especially considering that they have a far greater potential problem in the intersection of population density and poverty. What would the United States do if we faced an inner-city the size of California with 300 million people? That's the situation China is trying to address with its judicial system...and as a result, in a city with 14-16 million people, there was no place I felt unsafe walking alone at any hour of the night. Contrast that with San Antonio, a US city of approximately 1 million where there are some portions I don't feel comfortable driving through during the daytime. Is basic safety a human rights issue? If so, the US fails miserably in that regard. Why do we allow so many of our citizens to terrorize each other?

I have had long conversations regarding this with friends and family in China. Many of them assume that the United States is as chaotic and violent and drug-ridden as was depicted in the movie "Training Day". And while there are elements and places in the US that might actually be like that, most of us never see that kind of circumstance outside of the movie theater. From my conversations, it is clear that the characterization of China as lacking freedom is as inaccurate as characterizing the United States as an anarchistic gangland.

Anyway, maybe this helps you understand a little more where I'm coming from, and why I tend to respond to negative reports regarding China with a little skepticism.

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